Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL)
The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (WDEQ) has contracted with RESPEC and their teaming partners, WWC Engineering and MATRIX Consulting Group for the development of a TMDL in the Big Horn and Greybull River Watersheds. The Washakie County Conservation District realizes that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is requiring that TMDL's be completed and have been staying informed on the process.
TMDL is defined as the amount of pollutant a stream can accept and still meet its designated uses. A designated use is what the water is used for such as fish, recreation, wildlife water, domestic livestock water, etc. To determine a TMDL they determine what point sources enter into the stream (these are permitted sources such as waste water treatment plants), what non-point sources enter the stream (these are overland flow types of sources) and they allow a margin of safety (errors in modeling).
The TMDL work will focus on 16 impaired stream segments in the Greybull and Big Horn River watershed. Ultimately, each stream segment will be assigned a load number/allocation, which will be the amount of pollutant, from any of the sources, that that particular waterbody can handle. If that load number is lower than what is actually there (which E. coli will be) then we'll be able to use those findings to prioritize our implementation efforts.
MATRIX is planning to provide quarterly updates to the conservation districts on their progress and also plan to form a steering committee. They will also be providing information through news releases. Their timetable is as follows:
- First phase:
- Second phase:
- Third phase:
Watershed characterization and identification of additional monitoring needs. RESPEC believes that no further monitoring will be needed, unless they find data gaps. The preliminary analysis will compile information from existing reports and results from previous stream monitoring. This first phase is from January 1, 2011 to June 30, 2011. The next public meetings will be held after the first phase has been completed; July 12, 2011 in Worland and July 13, 2011 in Meeteetse. At this time, they also plan to have a watershed tour.
TMDL analysis. This will estimate the existing source loads, the allowable loading capacity, and the allocation of the loads required to meet the TMDL. This second phase is from July 1, 2011 to January, 2012.
TMDL implementation recommendations. Recommendations for implementation wll be documented based on the existing watershed plans and will be included in the final TMDL. This last phase is to be completed by June 30, 2012. RESPEC stated that a critical component of this project will be the integration of local knowledge and existing watershed plan through stakeholder participation.
Water Quality Monitoring Program
In a state as arid as Wyoming, water is literally the life blood of the area. Testing the health of that life blood is part of a water monitoring program undertaken by the Washakie County Conservation District (WCCD). The water monitoring program began because of the 1996 listing of seven streams in Washakie County on the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality's (WDEQ) "needs monitored" list. The listing of these streams was not justified due to lack of scientific data to prove they were impaired, but could not be removed from the list unless scientific data was collected to show they were not impaired.
WDEQ was scheduled to monitor local streams in 2000-2001, however, due to landowner request, WCCD employees conducted the monitoring. To allow Conservation Districts around the state to assist DEQ in gathering the water quality information needed, the state legislature allotted $367,000.00 for water monitoring training, lab analysis and equipment in 1998 and 2000, $675,000 in 2002 and 2004, 2006 and $675,000 again in 2008. In addition, the WCCD received a grant from WDEQ's 319 funds to conduct water quality monitoring from 2005 through 2008. This funding also included an education component and provided cost share to help local residents upgrade failing and/or inadequate septic systems and to address existing or potential water quality issues associated with small non-permitted livestock operations, i.e. less than 1000 head.
In order for WDEQ to accept the data collected from the Conservation Districts, the Districts followed WDEQ's protocol, which consisted of employees participating in several phases of classroom and field training by the Wyoming Department of Agriculture and the University of Wyoming and WDEQ.
The WCCD staff began water quality monitoring on six streams in Washakie County in May, 2005. The monitoring program is focused on streams that were included on the Wyoming DEQ's 303(d) list, which includes the Bighorn River, Nowood River, Sage Creek, Slick Creek, Fifteen Mile Creek, and Nowater Creek. This year 2005 began a monitoring schedule to gather water quality information on each site for E. coli and chemical constituents in both May and September, and a Beneficial Use Reconnaissance Program was done on three of these sites, in September. In 2006, monitoring was accomplished in August, in 2007, monitoring was accomplished in July, and in 2008, final monitoring was completed in June, except for the Nowood River. Monitoring was completed May through September on the Nowood, since this stream was candidate for the start of a delisting process. Since the month of May showed E. Coli above the standard, the WCCD decided not to keep monitoring an additional three years. The funding for this project is from a 319 grant awarded to the WCCD by WDEQ. Prior to the water monitoring each year, the WCCD updated our Sampling & Analysis Plan, where it was approved each year by WDEQ.
The data indicated Chemical and Physical parameters are not problematic but there may be indications of sedimentation and hardness. Nutrients (N and P) are also generally low in concentration. Bacteria continues to be the most persistent water quality challenge within the District. In general, it appears that bacteria concentrations increased from 2005 to 2007 and decreased in 2008. It is the hope of the District that BMP implementation is beginning to reap benefits to water quality. It is also apparent that there may be a need to focus efforts on Sage Creek as it is the only waterbody tested that doesn't appear to be responding to BMO implementation efforts at this point in time.
Use Attainability Analysis
The WCCD employees attended a Use Attainability Analysis training in 2009, which was hosted by the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts. Upon returning, the WCCD completed gathering the data necessary to document the proposed change of classification from Primary to Secondary within the Nowater Creek and Fifteen Mile Creek watersheds. In addition, the WCCD completed UAA documentation on 18 sites for the Wyoming DEQ for their random site Model documentation in 2010.