Palouse agriculture slice

Nonpoint Pollution from Agriculture

Local Examples

Whatcom County

Ecology, with many partners, developed and implemented a water quality improvement plan to reduce high bacteria levels in the Nooksack watershed in 2000. Water quality began to improve, but since 2003 we have seen an increase in local waters that do not meet water quality standards. Most of those that do meet standards show a trend of increasing bacteria. Ecology also is developing a water quality improvement plan to address polluted waters and a shellfish closure in Drayton Harbor. The results of a recent study will be compiled in a report that will be released for public review and comment.

For more information contact Steve Hood at 360-738-6254 or



Historic use of nitrogen-rich fertilizers applied to soils across the Yakima Valley has resulted in contamination to shallow drinking water wells. Increased awareness of groundwater contamination in private drinking water wells prompted the Department of Ecology to work with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Washington State Department of Agriculture, the Washington State Department of Health, and Yakima County to address the many challenges associated with regional groundwater contamination.

In the spring of 2012, Ecology provided funding to jump start a local Groundwater Management Area and named an advisory committee to begin tackling strategies for reducing nitrate contamination and improving drinking water quality. Advisory committee members will help chart the direction and actions of the groundwater program and have a chance to contribute to its ultimate success. Working collaboratively with the county and agencies, the board will help to implement strategies to protect drinking water and prevent further contamination to soil and groundwater.

2012 news release
More information on this effort
GWMA proposal

For more information contact Sanjay Barik at 509-454-4247 or



Skagit County's Samish watershed has had problems with bacteria pollution for a couple of decades. Bacteria in the river, other streams, and the bay frequently reach levels too high for safe shellfish harvest (and eating) and safe family recreation. Many partners have worked together and made progress here, but more effort needs to happen to reduce pollution problems and shellfish closures.

Samish Bay was closed to commercial shellfish harvest for 10 weeks in 2008 and 2009. All the closures were related to rain events that carried high numbers of fecal coliform bacteria into the bay from throughout the watershed. The state Department of Health monitors marine waters and has the authority to keep commercial shellfish beds open, or close them if marine water quality is compromised.

In April 2011, Governor Christine Gregoire expressed concern about Samish Bay shellfish bed closures during a Government Management and Accountability Program session on Puget Sound. Gregoire challenged state agencies to address this issue quickly. In response, state and local officials recently released a plan for more inspections and enforcement on all fronts, including septic tanks, livestock operations, small hobby farms, dairies and others, as well as more education and help for landowners.

More information on the Samish watershed

For more information contact Danielle DeVoe at 425-649-7036 or


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Last updated June 2016