Skagit County’s annual water quality report shows a mix of improving and declining water quality in streams throughout the county — a finding that has been routine over the 12 years the monitoring has been done.
The report for 2015 summarizes data collected from 40 sites in the county between Oct. 1, 2014, and Sept. 30, 2015. The county monitors water temperature, oxygen content and pollution information from the sites each week.
In the Samish River watershed, storm sampling is also collected following heavy rain as part of the Clean Samish Initiative, an effort focused on reducing fecal coliform bacteria pollution from septic systems and livestock.
The new report provides evidence that efforts to reduce pollution in the Samish watershed and other parts of the county where agriculture is prevalent may be working, according to the executive summary.
Much of that effort has been accomplished through the county’s pollution identification and correction, or PIC, program. The program focuses on specific areas where county staff look for signs of issues, such as septic system failures or livestock getting too close to streams, then work with landowners to fix the issues.
The PIC program has also helped connect landowners with a variety of other programs.
Skagit County began the water quality monitoring program in 2003 as a way to evaluate whether county rules for agriculture and water quality are sufficient.
This is the 12th annual report published as part of the program. The goal of the program is to look for trends in water quality and determine whether changes are related to activity on local property or influences such as weather.
While the Skagit River tends to have good water quality, concerns remain for many of the county’s small streams, Skagit County water quality specialist Rick Haley said.
Streams in the Samish watershed and elsewhere continue to fall below state standards for salmon and steelhead. Haley said although not at lethal levels, recurring high temperatures, pollution and low oxygen are concerns.
Part of the challenge is that many streams flow through private property.
“Because our lowland streams flow mostly through private land, we need to encourage and rely upon private landowners to help us improve conditions,” Haley said.