Focus Areas: Measuring Improvements in Water Quality
For the past twenty years, SWCDs and the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) have been working with agricultural landowners to improve water quality in our rivers and streams. In Hood River County, much work has been done to improve irrigation efficiency, increase streamside vegetated buffers and fence livestock out of waterways. Since the SWCD works with landowners on a voluntary basis, projects have occurred throughout the county.
Multiplied statewide, this long-term effort has resulted in many accomplishments but the effectiveness of the entire program has been hard to document. To address this shortcoming, in 2013 ODA instructed all SWCDs to concentrate some of their work in Focus Areas. While the over-arching goal is improved water quality, most SWCDs, including the Hood River SWCD are working to improve streamside vegetation, an easily measured surrogate. Our effort has been coordinated with an ongoing Columbia Gorge Fruit Growers’ (CGFG) riparian planting project that has been funded by the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation.
The Hood River SWCD began Focus Area work by mapping and assessing streamside vegetation on Indian Creek. Landowners with insufficient vegetation were identified, contacted by CGFG and, if amenable, had their streamside areas planted. The final planting was done this spring.
Now the SWCD has turned its attention to Neal Creek and its tributaries. We’ve mapped riparian conditions using aerial photography and are now beginning the work of ground-truthing. CGFG has already planted riparian buffers on all orchard waterways where vegetation was lacking and landowners were willing. We will follow up with non-orchard landowners as they are identified.
Do you have a waterway on your property that would benefit from additional vegetation? Riparian vegetation not only helps prevent streambank erosion, it protects water from pesticide and fertilizer pollution and provides needed shade for aquatic life. Most stream reaches outside of forested areas exceed temperature standards for aquatic life. If you would like to improve your riparian buffer, even if you live outside of the Neal Creek Focus Area, contact the District. We’re here to help!