Water Quality Improvement Projects
White River Area:


The White River is located in the Puget Sound region of western Washington State. Its headwaters are glaciers on Mt. Rainier, and it empties into the Puyallup River near Sumner, Washington. The river drains a 494-square-mile basin. Land uses in the watershed include mixed urban/residential, agricultural, and forested. The climate in the watershed is generally maritime, with cool, dry summers and mild, wet winters. (See Study Area map)

Water quality issues

Lower White River:

The White River, a tributary to the Puyallup River, has high pH values that exceed state water quality standards.

pH is a measure of the acidity of alkalinity of the water. Fish and other aquatic species thrive in water with pH values between 6.5 to 8.5 (7 is considered neutral). A high pH means the water is alkaline. If the pH is too high, fish are stressed and may die.

Upper White River:

Temperatures in the upper White River exceeded state water quality standards in several locations. The river is a listed spawning area for chinook salmon and other salmonids. Proper temperatures are vital to threatened and endangered salmon that need cold, clean water to survive. If the water is too warm, the salmon are less able to successfully spawn, and may also suffer health effects.

The river was also for sediment levels exceeding state water quality standards. Too much sediment in the water can irritate fish gills and make it difficult for them to breathe. It also suffocates egg nests of threatened and endangered salmon.

Status of the project

Lower White River:

A water quality improvement project (also known as a total maximum daily load, or TMDL) is being developed with a Memorandum of Agreement between the Muckleshoot Tribe, Ecology, and EPA. Ecology conducted monitoring in 2012 and is currently modeling the river. A draft technical report will be available in 2015.

Upper White River:

The Upper White River TMDL was completed in 2004, and the implementation report was completed in 2006. The recommendations in the implementation plan were to plant riparian areas and remove forest service roads.

Most of the recommendations in the implementation plan were assigned to the US Forest Service (USFS). They are decommissioning roads as funds allow and plantings have occurred, but it takes time to grow trees to a level where they will produce effective shade.

Technical information

Unless otherwise specified, the following documents are Ecology publications.

Quality Assurance Project Plan: Puyallup and White Rivers temperature and dissolved Oxygen Monitoring

Puyallup and White Rivers Dissolved Oxygen and Temperature Data Summary Report

Lower White River:

Upper White River:

Related information

Unless otherwise specified, the following documents are Ecology publications.

Lower White River:

Upper White River:

WRIA 10: Puyallup-White Watershed Information (Water web page)

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Last updated January 2016


WRIA: #10 (Puyallup-White)
County: Pierce

Water-body Names:
Lower White River
Upper White River


# of TMDLs:
Upper White Sediment and Temperature - 15

Lower White pH project - under development
Upper White Sediment and Temperature TMDL - approved by EPA

Contact Info:
Donovan Gray
Phone: 360-407-6407
Email: Donovan.Gray@ecy.wa.gov

Southwest Region
Department of Ecology
P.O. Box 47775
Olympia, WA 98504-7775