U.S. Water News Online
KETCHUM, Idaho — Water quality monitoring will end this fall at 47 sites on the state's rivers and streams due to budget cutbacks, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality says.
The department and the U.S. Geological Survey have monitored the sites since the late 1980s to track sediment loads, nutrient levels and fish numbers.
“The idea was to use this select group of sites to keep our finger on the pulse of trends in water quality across the state,” said Don Essig, water quality standards coordinator with the department. “It will be harder for us to become aware of any shifts of changes in water quality.”
The department had to make the cuts to meet Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter's requirement that state agencies reduce costs due to declining state revenues.
That meant cutting money to the State Trend Monitoring Coop — money that was matched by the USGS. Researchers with that agency took water samples as well as biological samples to study long-term trends, with the information being used by state and federal agencies.
“We're hoping it's just for the 2010 fiscal year,” Greg Clark, associate director for the Geological Survey's water program in Idaho, told the Idaho Mountain Express.
He said the water quality monitoring program costs the two agencies a combined $250,000 a year, and that the Geological Survey doesn't have the money to continue the monitoring on its own without the 50-50 match it relies on from Idaho.
“Our half is gone,” said Essig. “Their half is probably going somewhere else.”
The 47 sites eliminated from monitoring, starting Oct. 1, include some at central Idaho's Silver Creek, a famed fishing location. Sites are also being eliminated on the Big Wood River in Hailey and along the Little Wood River in Carey.
Clark said irrigators and recreational water users such as rafters and anglers will still be able to get streamflow levels that are monitored remotely.
“None of that is going to be discontinued,” he said.
At the eliminated sites, Clark said monitoring took place on a rotating basis with each site visited every two to three years.
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