Creek Safety Watch Monthly Advisories – Keeping the Public Safe and Aware of Water Quality Issues

Have you heard Stream Smart partners in a recent interview on the local news or seen a news article in print or on social media regarding bacteria levels in Bear Creek and its tributaries? Every year, starting around Memorial Day, Creek Safety Watch monthly advisories are published by the Rogue Valley Council of Governments (RVCOG). These advisories provide information on elevated bacteria (E. coli) levels observed within the Bear Creek Watershed, potential causes for these elevated levels, and Stream Smart choices that we can make to limit the number of occurrences. As part of the public outreach for a regional monitoring program under the Clean Water Act, these advisories serve to keep the public safe and aware of water quality issues within the watershed. The monthly advisories are published until Labor Day, but bacteria levels in creeks are monitored all year.

RVCOG collects and analyzes water quality samples from Bear Creek and its tributaries every month on behalf of the local communities (Ashland, Talent, Phoenix, Medford, Central Point, and Jacksonville) and Jackson County. When bacteria samples exceed water quality standards for contact recreation (e.g., wading and swimming), an advisory notice is sent to local media outlets and is posted online. Water contact recreation is a defined beneficial use for Bear Creek. However, this use is not supported in all areas of the watershed during all times of the year. Residents are asked to use caution when in contact with any waterways, and especially to avoid ingestion (which may cause illness) and contact with open wounds (which may cause infection). Very young children should be fully supervised when playing in or near the water to avoid swallowing the water. It is important to note that contact with any water body – creeks, rivers, lakes, or swimming pools – carries some level of risk.

The bacteria can come from a number of potential sources including: 1) pet waste, 2) livestock waste, 3) wild animals, 4) leaking septic systems, 5) illegal dumping from portable toilets or RVs, or 6) any other activity that results in the discharge of fecal matter directly into creeks or through storm drains.

On a regional scale, communities are implementing best management practices (BMPs) to help reduce and eliminate bacteria entering streams and storm drains. Examples include the installation of bioswales, constructed wetlands, and commercial treatment devices.

Everyone can help by learning how to be Stream Smart. Examples of what you can do include: 1) picking up after your pets, 2) keeping manure, cat litter, and other waste material away from creeks and storm drains, 3) having your septic system inspected and repaired if failing, and 4) putting toddlers in swim diapers.

If you are unsure of whom to call or have questions regarding which creeks are tested, please call Amie Siedlecki (541-423-1371) or Greg Stabach (541-423-1370) from the Rogue Valley Council of Governments’ (RVCOG) Natural Resources Department or visit: Natural Resources – Rogue Valley Council of Governments (rvcog.org). Additional monitoring information is also available from Monitoring Water Quality in the Rogue Basin – Stream Smart (stream-smart.com) page.

 

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