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Water Quality Monitoring

Water quality and watershed health are major issues in the Soil and Water Conservation Districts. Districts are involved with a variety of projects designed to preserve and/or improvement the quality of ground and surface water in Alaska.

Some Soil and Water Conservation Districts in Alaska conduct water-quality monitoring projects through the Citizens' Environmental Monitoring Program (CEMP) where volunteers take water samples to test the water for such indicators as pH and temperature. That information is compiled and shared with other agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Volunteers are vital to these efforts because of the many sites that need to be monitored. Trained volunteers — from high school students to retirees — have allowed SWCD to compile baseline data in some Districts.

Incentive programs help agricultural producers commit to working toward cleaner water on and near their farms and ranches. The Conservation Technology Information Center’s guide to water quality trading, Getting Paid for Stewardship: An Agricultural Community Water Quality Trading Guide, is available on their website. CTIC, in collaboration with EPA, has published this document to help producers learn more about water quality trading, which provides financial compensation for producers that use conservation practices. These practices often lead to reductions in pollution. Credits accumulated from these practices may be traded with other facilities that have exceeded their own legal discharge limits.

If you can become a water quality monitoring volunteer in your area, contact your local Soil and Water Conservation District.

Useful Links:

Conservation Technology Information Center
Cook Inlet Keeper Citizens Environmental Monitoring Program
National Water Quality Monitoring Council
United States Environmental Protection Agency
U.S. Geological Survey Water Resources Glossaries


Stream and River Water Quality Monitoring

Nushagak River Study in Alaska SWCD has completed a benchmark assessment of the river's water quality, fecal coliform presence, and potential impacts of riverbank erosion and presence of hydrocarbons from motorboats. The study was done to identify possible sources of contamination and recommend mitigation methods, and was done in conjunction with DEC, NRCS, EPA, Mulchatna Watershed Council and Bristol Bay Native Association. The study confirmed there is very little pollution or resource damage occurring on the Lower Nushagak River.

Clearwater Watershed Monitoring

The Delta-Clearwater River Watershed contains about 232,000 acres. Salcha-Delta SWCD initiated water-quality monitoring in 2005 to establish baseline data concerning the overall health of Clearwater River and Lake. Monitoring was conducted in 2005 and 2006 on five sites - four on the river and on the lake. Water samples were tested for pH, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, oxidation reduction potential, nitrates, nitrites, phosphates and turbidity.

CEMPs in Mat-Su Area

By teaming together, Palmer and Wasilla SWCDs are able to monitor 18 area sites in the combined Community Environmental Monitoring Program (CEMP). Twelve new volunteers were trained in two separate trains in 2006. Upper Susitna SWCD monitors eight sites. Volunteers collect water-quality data for baseline and screening purposes, and share that information with other agencies and groups.

Construction Water Quality Monitoring

Homer SWCD partnered with private contractors and Alaska Department of Transportation to monitor the water quality near a road construction project. Water samples were taken at the beginning of the project and after every significant rain until the end of the project to determine the effects of road construction on water quality and to determine the effectiveness of the management practices used. The District hopes DOT continues to use SWCDs as partners in such projects.

Alaska Clean Water Action

Homer SWCD is engaged in an ongoing project to address specific water-quality issues in Deep and Stariski creeks and Ninilchik and Anchor rivers, including turbidity, phosphorus and temperature. The project has been expanded to include a wildlife habitat study.