Monitoring Water Quality in the Rogue Basin

Who is Monitoring Water Quality?

Rogue Valley Council of Governments

Under the Bear Creek Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) and on behalf of the cities of Ashland, Central Point, Jacksonville, Medford, Phoenix, and Talent, as well as Jackson County, Medford Irrigation District (MID), Rogue River Valley Irrigation District (RRVID), and Talent Irrigation District (TID), the Rogue Valley Council of Governments (RVCOG) conducts monthly water quality monitoring at 23 sites along Bear Creek and its tributaries. RVCOG also conducts a Quality Assurance-Quality Control (QA/QC) split-sample with the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) every other month. Samples are analyzed for temperature, conductivity, turbidity, E. coli, pH, and ammonia and total phosphorus (May through October).

Additionally, RVCOG samples 16 storm drain sites from Central Point to Ashland. Samples are analyzed for temperature, conductivity, turbidity, E. coli, pH, biological oxygen demand (BOD), and total phosphorus.

Lastly, RVCOG responds to water quality concerns at “hot spots.” Parameters analyzed are based on each particular circumstance (ex: if there’s a possible sewer-stormwater cross-connection, E. coli samples are collected).

To view water quality data, visit the Water Quality Data Library.

*Between May and September, RVCOG will submit elevated bacteria level press releases to health authorities, municipalities, counties, and the media. These are advisory only, and are not meant to close access to rivers and creeks.*

Rogue Riverkeeper

Rogue Riverkeeper collects samples from public waterways throughout the summer to let the public know where it is safe to recreate. For more information on where the water is safe for water-contact recreation (wading, swimming), visit: The Swim Guide (pictured below).

Local Swim Guide monitoring locations.

Rogue Valley Sewer Services

Rogue Valley Sewer Services conducts creek walks and collects bacteria samples during the summer months (June through September) to identify sources of pollution in our creeks.

Jennie Morgan, Stormwater Program Manager, collecting a stormwater outfall sample during the summer monitoring season.

Water Quality Story Map

Click Here

TMDL and Storm Drain monitoring locations within the Bear Creek Watershed.

Almeda Fire Monitoring

The Almeda Fire began as a small brush fire in a field in northern Ashland and was stoked by strong winds from the south and moved quickly along the Bear Creek Corridor through rural, residential, and agricultural lands, along highways and the Bear Creek Riparian Corridor, burning numerous businesses, homes, fields, and vehicles from Ashland to South Medford. The fire burned approximately 3,000 acres and damaged over 2,500 homes and 600 businesses, as well as 11+ miles of riparian vegetation (trees, shrubs, and ground cover) along Bear Creek and several tributaries.

Oregon has never in recorded history experienced a fire of this magnitude in a primarily urban environment. An urban fire of this magnitude presents water quality concerns of short-, mid-, and long-term duration. Toxic materials from destroyed homes and businesses, farm properties, and materials used in firefighting have been distributed through ash, smoke, and sediment – into the air, soils, and water. The mixture of chemicals potentially released by the number and variety of structures and materials burned or damaged by heat is a significant and currently unknown concern. Additionally, reduction of vegetation and fire-induced soil modifications can result in increased flow rates and land erosion, creation of dioxins, and volatilization of metals that are deposited on downstream soils impacting water bodies and aquatic health. As sites are cleaned up, debris and soil removed, and restoration and rebuilding takes place, materials continue to enter the stream, washing into the creeks directly or through storm drains and groundwater. Impacts are heightened by the dramatic loss of riparian vegetation. Research shows that the most significant impacts occur 2-5 years post fire.

In 2021, the Rogue Valley Council of Governments, Rogue River Watershed Council, Rogue Valley Sewer Services, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Patton Environmental, and others applied for funding to the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board to conduct in depth monitoring of the fire impacts.  For more information on the program, visit the link below.

Program Link