Demonstration of the Benefits of Subirrigation Using Water Level Control Structures for Improved Agricultural Irrigation Water Use
The Whatcom CD has partnered with Washington State University Extension to conduct a demonstration project on the benefits of subirrigation using Water Level Control Structures. Water level control structures (WLCS) are a promising tool to better manage surface and ground water to enhance the economic and environmental benefits of water resource challenges during low rainfall summer months. This project will evaluate WLCS performance by comparing fields with and without WLCS in terms of silage corn/perennial silage grass yield, real‐time root zone soil moisture, irrigation water inputs, depth to groundwater, soil inorganic nitrogen, nitrate leaching, and surface and groundwater quality. The results of this evaluation will be conveyed to growers and other stakeholders in the agricultural community through outreach events organized by Whatcom Conservation District and through Washington State University Extension publications.
Project duration: 2020-2023
NRCS Watershed Assessment Projects
The Tenmile Watershed was selected in 2017 for a special Pilot Watershed Assessment Project as part of the NRCS National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI). The NWQI program aims to implement voluntary conservation practices to improve water quality in high-priority watersheds while maintaining agricultural productivity. This watershed assessment was an exercise in characterizing and identifying the land uses, or “critical source areas”, that have the greatest potential for nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorous), sediment, and/or pathogen impacts to water quality, while also identifying the outreach strategy and conservation management practices that can be implemented to reduce those impacts.
The project conducted a thorough land use survey and modeling effort to evaluate the highest priority areas for water quality impairment and conservation practice effectiveness. Additional landowner social survey and outreach work was conducted to evaluate water quality perceptions, practice implementation and barriers, and successful information sources to create a comprehensive outreach plan for the watershed.
- A full report on the Tenmile watershed assessment can be found HERE.
- The full Tenmile watershed outreach report can be found HERE.
Two more NWQI Watershed Assessments were conducted in 2020 with the same goal of identifying critical sources areas in the Wiser Lake Creek and Fishtrap watersheds and developing a functional outreach strategy to work with landowners.
- A full report on the Fishtrap Watershed Assessment and outreach strategy can he found HERE.
- A full report on the Wiser Lake Creek Watershed Assessment and outreach strategy can he found HERE.
Whatcom County has abundant populations of wildlife, including deer, elk, coyotes, and migratory birds. Large populations of wildlife living (and pooping) around our waterways- such as raccoons, beavers or birds- are one of the possible sources of high bacteria levels in creeks. Unfortunately, standard fecal bacteria monitoring cannot differentiate between bacteria from human, livestock, or wildlife sources.
You can help us better understand where wildlife are most often seen and how they may be impacting water quality by tracking wildlife as you see them. The next time you see animals on your property, or while driving around, please log your sighting into our Whatcom Wildlife Tracking iNaturalist Project.
A number of resource exist to for more information about how wildlife can impact water quality:
Discovery Farms Washington: Edge of Field Monitoring
Whatcom CD is partnering with local agricultural producers to better understand the effects of conservation best management practices on reducing field runoff of sediment, bacteria, and/or nutrients. Instruments at each study site measure how much and when water runs off, and collect samples for analysis. Rainfall and soil moisture are also recorded at each study site to better understand how soils react with water and when saturation, and runoff, levels are triggered. Each site project is funded through the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) and runs for 5 to 7 years.
Currently: 4 study sites in Whatcom County; Project duration: 2016- Present
Discovery Farms Washington: Evaluation of Dry Manure Storage Treatments
The Whatcom CD partnered with American Farmland Trust, King Conservation District, and two farm sites in King County, Washington to evaluate water quality impacts from different types of dry manure storage. Four types of manure storage were tested: a pile on dirt, uncovered; a pile on dirt, covered with a tarp; a pile in on a concrete slab, uncovered; and a pile on a concrete slab; covered with a roof. Findings showed that covered manure has less stormwater runoff and leaching of manure nutrients. Manure composition is reflected in the analyte profile seen in stormwater runoff and is variable between sites with different livestock. Finally, covered manure achieves a greater temperature to enhance the composting process and create a better end-product.
Project duration: 2019-2021
- For more information, you can access the project report HERE.
- Watch the short project summary video HERE.
DNA Molecular Source Tracking
Whatcom Conservation District and project partners Exact Scientific and Practical Informatics embarked on a year-long project to test whether the DNA of bacteria in our waterways can be used to accurately identify sources of fecal pollution. Project partners built a catalog of 21 different fecal bacterial DNA “fingerprints” representing potential fecal sources (i.e., humans, deer, dogs, geese, horses, etc.) in Whatcom County. The catalog was tested against water samples from areas with historically elevated bacteria levels with the intention of identifying which fecal sources were contributing bacteria to water. Our goal was to improve the future of water quality sampling and characterization in order to better identify and provide technical assistance to fix sources of fecal pollution in Whatcom County. Work in this area is ongoing.
Project duration: 2018-2019
- For more information, you can access our project report HERE.