Water Quality Monitoring Summer Press Releases

Have you heard an interview on the local news about bacteria in Bear Creek or noticed Bear Creek or its tributary streams (e.g., Griffin Creek) listed in the paper that have been found to have high bacteria levels?  If you have, the news is likely part of the public outreach program conducted as part of a regional monitoring program for local Clean Water Act Implementation Programs (TMDLs).

The Rogue Valley Council of Governments (RVCOG) collects and analyzes water quality samples from Bear Creek and its tributaries every month on behalf of local communities.  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 a number of best management strategies to help reduce and eliminate bacteria entering streams and storm drains using swales, constructed wetlands, commercial treatment devices, and other strategies.

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 http://rvcog.org/what-we-do/natural-resources/. Additional monitoring information is also available from the Stream Smart monitoring page.

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