Water Quality

water quality map

It is essential that we monitor water quality in the environment so that we can detect changes and take action as needed. Water quality is a measure of many different parameters that can tell us if our rivers, streams, lakes, and wetlands are healthy enough for people, fish, wildlife, and plants.

The Puyallup Reservation has 90 miles of rivers and streams, 360 acres of wetlands and 145 acres of lakes. The Water Quality Program at the Puyallup Tribe is responsible for monitoring these water bodies to ensure compliance with the Clean Water Act, and tribal and state water quality standards.

The Puyallup Tribe’s Water Quality staff monitors water quality to provide a basis for the Puyallup Tribe, the EPA, the Washington State Department of Ecology, local governments and others to protect and restore the waters in the Puyallup River basin.

Clean Water Act:

The Clean Water Act (CWA), as we know it today, came into effect in 1972. The CWA regulates the discharge of pollutants into the rivers, streams, lakes and marshes that fall under the jurisdiction of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE).

Under the CWA:


Puyallup Tribe’s Water Quality Monitoring:

Ambient Monitoring:

The Puyallup Tribe’s Water Quality technicians monitor several parameters at 10 sites on a monthly basis.

Parameters measured:

Temperature: Temperature is an important water quality measurement. Warm temperatures can harm salmon at all their life stages.

Dissolved Oxygen: Just like the air around us, water also has oxygen in it. It is called dissolved oxygen. Salmon need dissolved oxygen for all the activities in their lives from spawning to rearing to migrating.

Conductivity: Conductivity is the ability of water to carry an electric current. Water with ions, or dissolved salts, has the ability to carry an electric current. Distilled water, or water with no ions, will not carry an electric current. Sea water has a very high conductivity. When conductivity is high in a stream or river, it can indicate that pollution has been discharged into the water.

Salinity: Salinity is the total concentration of dissolved salts in water. High concentrations of salts can degrade drinking water, damage crops, and affect plant growth.

Turbidity: Turbidity is a measure of water clarity. When turbidity is high, the water usually looks cloudy and it can mean there is more sediment or pollution in the water.

pH: pH is measured on a scale of 1 to 14. 1 is extremely acidic and 14 is extremely basic. This scale is logarithmic, which means pH 5 is ten times more acidic than pH 6. And, pH 5 is 100 times more acidic than pH 7. Most organisms that live in freshwater have adapted to a pH range of 6.5 to 8.0.

Water samples are collected on a semi-annual basis and taken to a certified laboratory for analysis of:

Continuous Monitoring:

Temperature is monitored continuously at selected sites. Temperature water quality criteria is exceeded in many reaches throughout the Puyallup River watershed. Continuous temperature monitoring is important because it shows the daily or seasonal variability while monthly, or ambient, monitoring represents only a small snapshot in time.

In addition to ambient and continuous monitoring, the Water Quality staff also monitors:

EPA’s Water Quality Standards:

Of the 12 monitoring stations located throughout the Puyallup River watershed and within the Tribe’s Usual & Accustomed Fishing area:



Aquatic Life Dissolved Oxygen Temperature pH Turbidity TSS Total Phosphorus Nitrate + Nitrite
Core Summer Habitat 9.5 mg/L (1DMin) with human induced impacts not more than 0.2 mg/L 16 °C (1DMax), with human induced impacts not more than 0.3 °C 6.5-8.5 units, human induced variation <0.2 5 NTU when background is 50 NTU or less; or not more than 10% increase in turbidity when background is >50NTU
Benchmark when background sample not collected: 1.3 NTU
<25 mg/L <0.01 mg/L 0.06 mg/L
Salmonid Spawning, Rearing and Migration (“Non-Core”) 8 mg/L (1DMin) with human induced impacts not more than 0.2 mg/L 17.5 °C (1DMax) with human induced impacts not more than 0.3 °C 6.5-8.5 units 5 NTU when background is 50 NTU or less; or not more than 10% increase in turbidity when background is >50NTU
Benchmark when background sample not collected: 1.3 NTU
<25 mg/L <0.01 mg/L 0.06 mg/L
Char Spawning and Rearing 9.5 mg/L (1DMin) with human induced impacts not more than 0.2 mg/L 12 °C (1DMax) with human induced impacts not more than 0.3 °C 6.5-8.5 units, human induced variation < 0.2 5 NTU when background is 50 NTU or less; or not more than 10% increase in turbidity when background is >50NTU Benchmark when background sample not collected: 1.3 NTU <25 mg/L <0.01 mg/L 0.06 mg/L
Salmonid Spawning Seasonal Criterion of 13 °C in designated reaches from 9/1-7/1 or 9/15-7/1