Water Quality Improvement Project
Johnson Creek Watershed
Johnson Creek Watershed is located in north central Whatcom County, Washington. The 21-square-mile
watershed includes lands drained by Clearbrook Ditch and Squaw,
Pangborn and Sumas creeks. Johnson Creek originates from springs north of
Everson and flows northeast, eventually to the Fraser River in British Columbia.
Land use in the watershed includes about 80 percent pasture and haylands
for dairies, with the remaining land uses distributed among sweet pea and corn crops,
urban development, woodlands and wetlands. (See
Water quality issues
Water quality studies in 1995 and 1996 determined that high fecal coliform
levels and chronically low dissolved oxygen are two key pollutants in
the watershed. Other water quality issues found were high water
temperatures, especially in the summer; low pH; high turbidity; and
excess nutrients (ammonia, nitrate, and phosphorus).
Why this matters
Fecal coliform, also known as “bacteria”, is from human and
animal waste. It can get into our waters from untreated or partially
treated discharges from wastewater treatment plants, from improperly functioning
septic systems, wildlife and from unknown sources. It can make people
Sufficient dissolved oxygen in water is vital for fish and aquatic
life, who need it to “breathe”.
Cool water temperatures are vital to threatened and endangered
salmon that need cold, clean water to survive.
pH is the measure of how acidic or alkaline the waterbody is. Fish
and other aquatic species thrive in water with pH values between 6.5 to 8.5 (7
is considered neutral). When pH values are outside this range, other contaminants
in the water may become more harmful to aquatic life. pH levels are affected by
water temperature, turbulence, carbon dioxide levels in the water, and other
Phosphorus and other nutrients in the water fuel the growth of algae. When algae die, they
remove oxygen from the water, reducing the amount of dissolved oxygen in the
water. Fish and aquatic life need sufficient oxygen to survive.
Turbidity is a measure of the amount of fine sediments
suspended in a body of water. The sediment can come from eroding streambanks. They can also be washed into drainages during storm events. Pollutants such as
fertilizers, fecal coliform bacteria, and toxics can be carried into rivers and
streams along with suspended sediments. Too much sediment in the water makes it
less transparent, "muddy". Turbid water absorbs more energy from the sun,
resulting in higher stream temperatures.
Status of the project
Ecology submitted the water quality improvement report (WQIR, also known as a
TMDL) to EPA. EPA approved the WQIR in June 2000. Later Ecology sent
a copy of the detailed implementation plan to EPA. The
plan describes, in greater detail, how Ecology and other state agencies, federal
agencies, and local governments will apply the wasteload allocations and load
allocations, and carry out other recommendations in the WQIR. The goal is
for water quality in the Johnson Creek watershed to meet water quality standards
for fecal coliform bacteria.
What is being done?
This water quality improvement project targets these key areas: dairy
waste management; rural residential septic waste; commercial and residential
pollution prevention;, and riparian re-vegetation.
There are things citizens can do to help clean up water in the Johnson Creek
watershed and keep it clean:
- Keep fecal coliform bacteria out of the water by bagging and properly
disposing of dog poop. Check your on-site sewage system to make sure it is
maintained and working properly.
- Participate in the Whatcom Watersheds Pledge Program.
Johnson Creek Watershed, Total Maximum Daily Load -- Submittal Report
Johnson Creek Watershed Bacteria Total Maximum Daily Load: Detailed
Implementation Plan (Ecology Publication)
Focus Sheet: Johnson Creek Watershed -- Cleaning up water pollution (Ecology
WRIA 01: Nooksack Watershed Information (Environmental Assessment
Program web site)
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