SURFACE WATER QUALITY MONITORING
The Uinta County Conservation District's water program was initiated when three of Uinta County's major rivers were placed on the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality's 303(d) list of impaired waters.
The Blacks Fork and Smiths Fork Rivers, located on the eastern side of the county, were both listed as impaired due to E. coli bacteria and the Smiths Fork was also listed for habitat degradation causing excess sediment loading to the stream. The Bear River, on the western side of the county, was listed as impaired due to excess sediment in the stream which was affecting aquatic life in the river.
In order to address these listings, UCCD pursued watershed planning in both the Blacks Fork / Smiths Fork and Bear River areas; and worked hard to involve the local communities in the planning process. UCCD and the local steering committees completed two watershed plans, the Blacks Fork / Smiths Fork Watershed Plan and the Upper Bear River Watershed Plan. Both watershed plans identify local resource concerns throughout the watersheds and outline actions that can be taken by the local people to address those concerns.
The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (WDEQ) has completed Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) for both watersheds as well. A TMDL is a plan to attain and maintain water quality standards in waters that are not currently meeting them (i.e., a “Water Quality Improvement Plan”). The TMDL defines by how much pollutant levels need to be reduced to meet water quality standards. The Bear River Sediment TMDL was completed in 2014 and is available on WDEQ’s website. The Blacks Fork Watershed E. coli TMDL was completed in 2019 and is available by contacting the conservation district or WDEQ.
The best way to improve water quality in our rivers is through education about the issues and then taking action. We want to get projects on the ground that will improve our watersheds. The Conservation District has developed cost share programs to assist financially with projects that address water quality concerns and have the potential to improve water quality. Some examples of projects eligible for cost share include septic system remediation, re-structuring corral systems that offer livestock direct access to the stream, providing alternate water sources rather than direct access to the river, fencing, irrigation improvement, stream bank stabilization, erosion control and buffers. Other projects not on this list may also qualify, so give us a call to see if your project qualifies.
UCCD continues to collect water quality data on these rivers and their tributaries from May through September. Data collected will be used to show trends in water quality over time and help determine where to focus education efforts and assist landowners in installing projects that will improve water quality.