Freshwater Quality
21% of stream and river segments that were assessed in 2010 were listed as impaired
Indicator Leads: Markus Van Prause, Washington State Department of Ecology, Ken Koch, Washington State Department of Ecology, and Jo Wilhelm, King County
This webpage is currently being updated. For the most recent findings for this Vital Sign, please consult the report in the latest State of the Sound
Data last updated on March 9, 2015
Photo Credit: Dan Bennett

Importance to Puget Sound recovery

The rivers and streams that flow into Puget Sound are the lifeblood of our region’s ecosystems and our health, economy, and quality of life. Yet only 64% of the major rivers in Puget Sound meet water quality goals.

Clean water is vital to people and to healthy fish and wildlife populations. When our rivers and streams pick up pollutants, toxic contaminants, or excessive sediments and nutrients, it adversely affects the health of our watersheds, marine waters, swimming beaches, and shellfish beds.

Three key indicators help us monitor the health of Puget Sound: the number of impaired waters, the Water Quality Index, and the Benthic Index of Biotic Integrity. Under the federal Clean Water Act of 1972, waters that fail to meet water quality standards are considered impaired. The Water Quality Index integrates complex water quality data into a readily understood scale. The Benthic Index of Biotic Integrity measures the abundance and diversity of macroinvertebrates in a streambed. Also known as stream bugs, these creatures are a critical part of the aquatic food web and are sensitive to changes in the environment.

What you can do

  1. Use Low Impact Development (LID) techniques to manage stormwater runoff such as natural landscaping, rain gardens, rain barrels, green roofs and permeable paving where appropriate.
  2. Let the Rain Soak In: Slow stormwater runoff by directing downspouts into lawns, beds or rain gardens. Plant more trees to help capture rainwater.
  3. Do not use pesticides on your lawn. Pesticides are poisoning some urban streams.
  4. Volunteer in your area to work with a group helping to reduce fresh water pollution.
  5. Debris and pollution from cars affect water quality. Try alternatives to driving such as public transportation, carpooling, vanpooling, walking, or biking.
  6. If you do have a car, wash your car at a commercial car wash so wastewater plants can treat the water before it enters local waterways. Learn more at Puget Sound Starts here.
  7. Dispose of oil and other auto wastes at your local recycling location or hazardous waste collection facility. Some county-based links are available here.

What our partners are doing

View Near Term Actions helping to advance this Vital Sign

Links for more information

Washington State Department of Ecology: River and Stream Water Quality Monitoring Program

Washington State Department of Ecology: Stream Biological Monitoring

United States Geological Survey: Washington Water Science Center

Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission: Coordinated Tribal Water Quality Program

Quality Assurance Plans and Methods