Water Quality Monitoring Program

Riverkeeper volunteers monitor over 100 sites for key water pollution threats on the Columbia River and tributaries.

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Check out this great video featuring or Water Quality Monitoring Program and one of our volunteers.

Program Overview

Riverkeeper volunteer sampling along the Columbia in Portland, ORColumbia Riverkeeper volunteers monitor water quality to measure progress towards the nation’s goal of “restoring and maintaining the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation’s waters” as expressed by the US Clean Water Act. We believe everyone has the right to a clean river that is safe to fish and swim in. There are a number of serious water pollution threats that currently challenge this goal, including numerous toxics detected in sturgeon, to water temperatures that exceed state standards and stress migrating salmon every summer. Riverkeeper water quality monitors “adopt” a river-site on the Columbia, or a tributary, and monitor water quality once per month to help us identify sources of pollution problems and prioritize restoration efforts.

Riverkeeper volunteers began monitoring 24 sites in 2006 and now monitor over 100 strategic sites for key pollution indicators including conductivity, pH, water clarity (turbidity), dissolved oxygen, temperature and E. coli. Additionally, in 2007-2008 volunteers near Wenatchee monitored eight sites for aquatic insects (macroinvertebrates) which are also important indicators of river health. Regular, long-term monitoring creates a baseline dataset from which to identify water quality trends and catch problems quickly. In 2008, volunteers detected an E. coli problem on Indian Creek, a tributary to the Hood River in the Columbia Gorge, and traced one source to a cracked sewage pipe, which was then quickly fixed. Volunteers have also consistently found temperatures on the mainstem Columbia to exceed the state standard of 68° F every summer since our program began in 2006. For juvenile salmon and steelhead, higher temperatures can stunt growth, promote disease, and encourage predators, such as bass and pike-minnow. Through their monitoring efforts, Riverkeeper volunteers are helping us identify key cool-water tributaries and inlets that have the potential to be protected or restored as thermal refuges along juvenile salmonid migration routes. Volunteers may also monitor for toxic pollutants, such as mercury, as a part of targeted studies. All Riverkeeper volunteers receive technical training from Riverkeeper and use Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) equipment and approved protocols. Our data may be viewed on the statewide databases of both Oregon DEQ and Washington Department of Ecology or in our annual data reports (check out our 2011 Data Report).