Wyoming State Water Plan
Wyoming State Water Plan
Wyoming Water Development Office
6920 Yellowtail Rd
Cheyenne, WY 82002
Water quality issues can affect the development and use of water in a river basin. Various properties are used to determine water quality such as physical, chemical, biological, bacteriological, and radiological characteristics. Quality of water can be affected by human activities as well as natural events. This technical memorandum will identify water quality issues within the Snake/Salt River basin.
The Environmental Quality Act was passed by the Wyoming Legislature in 1973. The purpose of the law was to address the concern that pollution “will imperil public health and welfare, create public and private nuisances, be harmful to wildlife, fish and aquatic life, and impair domestic, agricultural, industrial, recreational and other beneficial uses”. The Act authorized the state “to prevent, reduce and eliminate pollution; to preserve, and enhance the water and reclaim the land of Wyoming; to plan development, use, reclamation, preservation and enhancement of the air, land, and water resources of the state; to preserve and exercise the primary responsibilities and rights of the state of Wyoming; to secure cooperation between agencies of the state, agencies of other states, interstate agencies, and the federal government in carrying out these objectives” (Environmental Quality Act, 1973).
The State of Wyoming has designated the Water Quality Division (WQD) of the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (WDEQ) to oversee water quality and enforce the Environmental Quality Act. This is being done through various programs that have been set up to control various forms of potential pollution. Pollution can come from point and non-point sources, and can effect surface water and groundwater.
There have been numerous federal legislative efforts that authorize the remediation and protection of water quality and the environment. These include the Clean Water Act, Pollution Prevention Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, Clean Air Act, National Environmental Protection Act, Solid Waste Disposal Act, Toxic Substance Control Act, and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act. Most of the federal programs involved with water quality allow individual states to obtain primacy to administer the federal programs. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can step in if a state is not conducting the program to their satisfaction, even if the state has primacy.
Water Quality Standards:
Surface Water Quality
New water quality standards were established by the WQD, with final adoption of the standards in July 2001. Surface water standards can be found in Chapter 1 of the Water Quality Rules and Regulations produced by WDEQ, and the following description of the surface water classification system is taken from that chapter.
The following water classes are a hierarchical categorization of waters according to existing and designated uses. Except for Class 1 waters, each classification is protected for its specified uses plus all the uses contained in each lower classification. Class 1 designations are based on value determinations rather than use support and are protected for all uses in existence at the time or after designation. There are four major classes of surface water in Wyoming with various subcategories within each class (see “Wyoming Surface Water Classification List” for current listing).
Chapter 8 of the Wyoming Water Quality Rules and Regulations addresses groundwater quality standards and protection. These rules are enforced by the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality Water Quality Division. Chapter 8 describes various classifications that have been created for groundwater and outlines the rules for discharges to these waters. Additional information regarding groundwater quality is presented in the technical memorandum prepared by Hinckley Consulting for the Snake/Salt River Basin Plan entitled “Groundwater Resources”.
Basin Surface Water Quality:
WDEQ has classified surface water features according to the previously described classification system. According to the Wyoming Surface Water Classification List (WDEQ, 2001) there are many surface waters within the Snake/Salt River basin designated as Class 1 waters, including the following:
Many of the remaining rivers and streams in the basin are classified as 2AB in the primary classification from WDEQ, while a few are classified as 3B.
The Clean Water Act requires that a 305(b) report be created which covers statewide water quality, along with a 303(d) list, which is a list of impaired streams in the state. Impaired streams require the establishment of total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) for problem pollutants. A TMDL is the amount of a specific pollutant that a water body can receive and assimilate in a given time period and still meet water quality standards.
The classification of stream indicates what use is being or can be supported by that stream. In general, the quality of water in the Snake/Salt River basin is good based upon water bodies supporting their designated uses. This is evident in the lack of basin water features included in Wyoming’s 2002 305(b) State Water Quality Assessment Report produced by WDEQ, which includes 303(d) listings. These listings are broken into four parts, the first being the 303(d) Waterbodies with Water Quality Impairments. There are no Snake/Salt River basin water features on this list. The second is the 303(d) Waterbodies with NPDES Discharge Permits Containing WLA’s Expiring. Flat Creek near Thayne and Snake River near Alpine are on this list, as NPDES discharge permits for the wastewater treatment plants in these areas have imminent expiration dates. The third is the 303(d) Waterbodies with Water Quality Threats, which includes Spread Creek-North Fork due to habitat degradation, Flat Creek between Snake River and Cache Creek due to habitat degradation, and Salt River near the Etna Gaging Station due to fecal coliform bacteria. There are no waters in the Snake/Salt River basin that were delisted from the 2000 303(d) list.
In summary, there are no water features in the basin requiring TMDLs, and there are current threats only in a few areas. Other water quality problems described in the 2002 Water Quality Assessment Report (though not on the 2002 303(d) list) include physical degradation of the Pacific Creek stream channel and general erosion in the Greys-Hoback watershed. Stream channel rehabilitation on the North Fork of Spread Creek has been done, however the stream will remain on the above mentioned 303(d) list until the riparian vegetation is better established.
According to “Water Resources Data Wyoming Water Year 2001” produced by U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), only three water quality sampling stations are currently being operated by USGS in the Snake/Salt River basin. These stations are shown in Table 1.
Table 1. Current USGS Water Quality Sampling Stations
|Station Name||Station Number||Period of Record|
|Snake River above Jackson Lake, at Flagg Ranch||13010065||1987 to Present|
|Snake River at Moose||13013650||1995 to Present|
|Salt River above Reservoir, near Etna||13027500||1994 to Present|
Water quality data for the stations listed in Table 1 can be found in Appendix A. The data is for the 2001 water year, which covers results from October 2000 to September 2001. Review of the data indicates that there are no water quality problems apparent in the sample testing results, other than the fecal coliform test results at the Salt River station described above.
Additional water quality monitoring across Wyoming is conducted by WDEQ as part of their watershed monitoring program. During the late 1990’s, water quality collection sites were selected in order to provide reference quality data. These sites generally did not have water quality problems, as the data were used as a reference for later testing. Resulting data for sites within the Snake/Salt River basin can be found in Appendix B. Due to the fact that these sites were intended to provide reference data, there are no evident impairments of the rivers and streams from the test results. Since 2000, data have been collected from sites that were targeted as being potentially impaired waters. This data will be available to the public later in 2003 following completion of WDEQ quality control procedures.
Aquifer Sensitivity and Vulnerability:
A program to assess the vulnerability of groundwater to contamination from surface pollutants was initiated in 1992 by WDEQ in cooperation with the University of Wyoming's Water Resources Center, the Wyoming State Geological Survey, and the US Environmental Protection Agency . Geographic Information System (GIS) software was used to combine various geologic, topographic, and soils characteristics into composite scores. These scores describe “aquifer sensitivity” ( the intrinsic ability of the subsurface environment to transport surface contaminants into groundwater, and “groundwater vulnerability” ( the integration of aquifer sensitivity with current land use practices likely to cause groundwater contamination. Final reports for this program were completed in 1998, and data was available digitally in 1999. Additional information regarding aquifer sensitivity and vulnerability can be found in the technical memorandum created for the Snake/Salt River Basin Plan by Hinckley Consulting entitled “Groundwater Resources”.
Hinckley Consulting, Groundwater Determination, Snake/Salt River Basin Plan, Technical Memorandum, 2003.
U.S. Geological Survey, Water Resources Data Wyoming Water Year 2001, Volume 1. Surface Water, Water Data Report WY-01-1, 2002.
Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, Method for Determining Water Quality Condition of Surface Waters, June 2002.
Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, Wyoming Surface Water Classification List, June 2001.
Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, Wyoming’s 2002 303(d) List of Waters Requiring TMDLs, 2002.
Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, Water Quality Rules and Regulations, Chapter 1. 2001.
Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, Water Quality Rules and Regulations, Chapter 8.
Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, Wyoming’s 2002 305(b) State Water Quality Assessment Report and 2002 303(d) List of Waters Requiring TMDLs,2002.
Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, Water Quality Division, Five-Year Comprehensive Monitoring Plan, 2001 Update, October 2002.
Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, Water Quality Division, Five-Year Comprehensive Monitoring Plan, 2002 Update, November 2002.
Zemberge, Jeremy, Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, Water Quality Division, Personal Communication, January 6, 2003.
USGS Water Quality Data, 2001
Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality
Surface Water Data 1993-1999