Wildlife Tracker Tool
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 the Whatcom Wildlife Tracker app here: https://arcg.is/14nWLj
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
ZAPS Real-time Water Quality Monitoring
Local water quality partners are working with EPA Region 10 and the Office of Research and Development to install five continuous water monitoring instruments in the Nooksack Basin, including one at the Canadian border, and evaluate the use of these instruments for real time optical measurements of water quality parameters. The ZAPS LiquID instruments provide near real-time data for E. coli, nitrate+nitrite, suspended solids, chlorophyll-a, biochemical oxygen demand, and hydrocarbons in waterways. The goal is to assess the functionality of the instruments and to document and track timing of changes in pollutant concentrations throughout the year including after rainfall or other significant events. Partners hope to be able to use this type of real-time continuous data to improve understanding of annual and event patterns in water quality parameters, inform water quality sampling timing, and track water quality coming over the Canadian border.
Currently: 5 instruments deployed in the Nooksack Watershed; Project duration: 2016-2019
DNA Molecular Source Tracking
Whatcom Conservation District and project partners Exact Scientific and Practical Informatics are embarking 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. Over the next year, project partners will work on building a catalog of 21 different fecal bacterial DNA “fingerprints” representing potential fecal sources (i.e., humans, deer, dogs, geese, horses, etc.) in Whatcom County. This catalog will then be used to evaluate water samples from areas with historically elevated bacteria levels with the intention of identifying which fecal sources are contributing bacteria to water. The goal of this research is 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.
Project duration: 2018-2019
Tenmile Watershed Assessment Project
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. A full report on the Tenmile modeling assessment can be found HERE. 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. That outreach report can be found HERE.