Water Quality Issues

Nutrients, sediment, and E. coli are the three water quality concerns in the Lower Gallatin Watershed.

Nutrients

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Algae bloom

Nitrogen and phosphorus are nutrients that are necessary for plant growth. However, high levels of these nutrients in streams cause algae blooms. Algae compete with native vegetation and decrease the amount of dissolved oxygen available for fish.

Excess nitrogen and phosphorus comes from fertilizers on lawns and farm fields, pet and livestock waste, and leaking septic systems.

Streams in the Lower Gallatin Watershed that contain high levels of nutrients are: Bear Creek, Bozeman Creek, Bridger Creek, Camp Creek, Dry Creek, East Gallatin River, Godfrey Creek, Hyalite Creek, Jackson Creek, Mandeville Creek, Reese Creek, Smith Creek, and Thompson Creek.

We can reduce the amount of nutrients in these streams by managing fertilizer use, picking up pet waste, fencing livestock out of streams, maintaining septic systems, and enhancing riparian vegetation and wetlands.

Sediment

Erosion along Bozeman Creek. Credit: Chris Boyer, cfboyer.com

Erosion along Bozeman Creek. Credit: Chris Boyer, cfboyer.com

Sediment includes particles of sand, clay, and silt that are suspended in the water or settled on the stream bottom. While some sediment is natural in streams, excess sediment comes from erosion of stream banks and farm fields as well as stormwater runoff.

High levels of sediment smother the gravels where fish spawn and aquatic insects live. It also reduces the natural vegetation growing in the stream while increasing the amount of blue-green algae. Excess sediment increases the cost of treatment for drinking water.

Streams in the Lower Gallatin Watershed that contain high levels of sediment are: Bear Creek, Bozeman Creek, Camp Creek, Dry Creek, Godfrey Creek, Reese Creek, Rocky Creek, Smith Creek, Stone Creek, and Thompson Creek.

We can reduce the amount of sediment in these streams by enhancing riparian vegetation and wetlands, fencing livestock out of streams, and improving urban stormwater systems.

 

E. coli

Effects of dog poop. Credit Gallatin Valley Land Trust

Effects of dog poop. Credit Gallatin Valley Land Trust

Bacteria such as E. coli enter waterways when fecal matter is washed into streams. These bacteria can come from wildlife, livestock, or pet waste as well as leaking septic tanks. Most bacteria are harmless, but viruses, protozoan, and other microbes associated with E. coli in fecal matter can cause illness in people and animals.

Streams in the Lower Gallatin Watershed that contain high levels of E. coli are: Bozeman Creek, Camp Creek, Godfrey Creek, Reese Creek, and Smith Creek.

We can reduce this pollution by picking up pet waste, fencing livestock out of streams, and maintaining septic systems.

 

 

 

 

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