Water quality refers to maintaining or working to achieve certain physical, chemical, and biological characteristics in a water body. The desired characteristics, or level of quality, for a given surface water body varies depending on the desired uses of it: for industrial production, drinking water, recreation, or fish and aquatic life, among others. The designated beneficial use(s) of a water body affect the level of stringency of the water quality standards, and therefore the amount of work that may be needed to meet those standards.
While Jackson County is fortunate to have incredible water resources, there are significant challenges to water quality in the county with many local waterbodies not meeting water quality standards. Our local water bodies face issues with bacteria, sedimentation, pH, temperature, and dissolved oxygen. Reduced water quantity instream from water withdrawals and diversions, as well as drought can magnify these issues. These water quality impairments pose challenges for human recreation, local drinking water providers, and fish and wildlife needs among others.
While a factory dumping pollution into a stream may be the image that comes to mind when discussing water pollution, today the largest challenge to improving water quality in surface waters comes from the accumulation of many diffuse actions, or nonpoint sources of pollution, which get carried into waterways via rainfall or snow melt or other avenues, e.g. irrigation runoff, livestock entering streams. There are many sources of nonpoint source pollution such as manure and fertilizer from agricultural operations, erosion from forestry operations, and dog waste, vehicle fluids, and pesticides from residential areas. When all the various individual actions add up they can result in serious impacts to water quality, but on the positive side, this means that individuals have a lot of opportunity to help contribute to improvements.
Restoring and maintaining natural filtration systems such as riparian areas, forests, and wetlands among others can also help improve surface and ground water quality; avoiding impacts to groundwater quality also helps protect surface waters as they are connected systems. Learn more about water quality, nonpoint source pollution, and some specific areas of work in Jackson County at the pages below.