The Nez Perce Tribe’s Water Resources Division is responsible for assuring that Reservation waters are drinkable, fishable and swimmable, as well as being suitable for cultural and ceremonial uses.
The Nez Perce Reservation covers approximately 770,483 acres in north central Idaho, just east of the City of Lewiston, and has shared ownership among tribal, private, state and federal entities. The Nez Perce Reservation occupies a large portion of the Clearwater River subbasin, which is a major tributary of the Snake River.
The Clearwater River flows approximately 70 miles within the Nez Perce Reservation and, with minor exceptions, the watersheds of the Reservation drain into the Clearwater River. Over 2,300 stream miles are located within the Reservation boundaries, of which approximately 15% are classified as perennial streams. Many of the streams within the Nez Perce Reservation historically supported substantial runs of anadromous salmonids. Fish once constituted a major food source to the Nez Perce people, and salmon remain an integral part of the Nez Perce culture.
The Nez Perce Reservation is located in north central Idaho. Reservation boundaries overlap portions of five counties (Nez Perce, Lewis, Idaho, Clearwater, and a small portion of Latah), and consists of 750,000 acres. There are many small incorporated and unincorporated communities scattered throughout the reservation.
Water quality and quantity have important cultural and economic significance for the Nez Perce Tribe. The mission of the WRD is to “provide a foundation for management of the water rights secured by the Treaties of 1855 and 1863, and for monitoring the quality of water resources vital to the long-term sustainability of the Nez Perce Tribe and its heirs” (Nez Perce Tribe Water Resources Division Plan of Work 2005). Long-term viability of this resource depends on the development of comprehensive management programs for watersheds located on the reservation and ceded lands. The goals of the WRD surface water program quality monitoring program are to:
• Implement tribal water quality policies and regulation on a watershed scale to protect, preserve, and
enhance water quality.
• Conduct research that supports the implementation of water quality management goals.
• Implement tribal programs, policies,and regulations to protect surface water quality, including
management practices that prevent pollutants from entering surface water.
• Maintain, enhance, and restore wetland functions and values.
• Protect off-reservation water resources.
• Enhance protection of tribal water resources through coordination and consultation.
The Wetland Program has performed inventories and functional assessments of wetlands on the Reservation over a period seven years. Detailed information on wetland plants, soils, hydrology, land use, wildlife habitat, and more was gathered in 294 wetlands and entered into a database. Wetland condition was documented with photos, and plant specimens were collected for reference. GPS maps of each wetland were incorporated into a GIS coverage and linked to photos.
The next step in developing the Tribe’s Wetland Program was monitoring of water quality and biological
indicator species (amphibians and aquatic macroinvertebrates) in selected wetlands. Monitoring equipment for the 2010 and 2011 field seasons was installed in 14 wetlands. In 2012 we conducted a reassessment of 40 wetlands to detect changes that may be attributed to climate change.
Nonpoint Source Pollution Prevention
Nonpoint source (NPS) pollution is the leading cause of water quality problems in the United States. NPS pollution can include:
• Excess fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides from agricultural lands and residential areas.
• Oil,grease and toxic chemicals from urban runoff and energy production.
• Sediment from improperly managed construction sites, crop and forest lands, and eroding stream
• Salt from irrigation practices and acid drainage from abandoned mines.
• Bacteria and nutrients from livestock, pet wastes and faulty septic systems.
• Atmospheric deposition and hydromodification.
The goal of the NPS Management Program is to reduce NPS pollution on the Nez Perce Reservation, restore and maintain degraded systems/habitats, preserve natural ecosystems, and educate landowners and the general public. To date, the program has fenced over 100 miles of stream, planted several hundred miles of riparian vegetation, assisted landowners in no-till farming practices, obliterated or repaired roads that were negatively impacting water quality and helped to install off-site watering structures for livestock.
Follow this link to the map and listings of the watersheds in our area.
“High quality groundwater on the Nez Perce Reservation provides nearly 100% of the potable water supplies for the Nez Perce people. The Lapwai Valley Aquifer is a portion of the federally designated Lewiston Sole Source Aquifer and scientific studies have documented that streams and groundwater are hydrologically connected. Our mission is to protect high quality groundwater from degradation and to restore contaminated groundwater to beneficial use.”
Brownfields are real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated
by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. This program is funded by CERCLA 128(a)/ Brownfield’s Tribal Response Program, and includes:
• Conducting timely survey and inventory of brownfield sites,
• Providing oversight and enforcement authorities,
• Creating meaningful opportunities for public participation,
• Authorizing cleanup approval and verification that a cleanup is complete, and
• Establishing a public record documenting the work conducted in the previous year and the planned
work for the current year.
Leaking Underground Storage Tanks (LUST’s)
The Groundwater Program’s goals are to cleanup leaking underground storage tank (LUST) sites to restore and protect groundwater resources and create a safe environment for those who live or work around these sites. This program is funded under the Resource Conservation Recovery Act (RCRA). Follow this link to learn more out the programs
Hazardous Environmental Response Team (HURT)
Water Resources is developing the capacity to assist Idaho Department of Homeland Security in
responding and containing major petroleum and chemical spills or independently remediating smaller
spills within the scope of our ability.
Our goal is to provide clean potable water for our customers as well as maintain a reasonable rate structure that our customers can afford. Our water technicians operate and maintain the three water systems (North Lapwai, South Lapwai, and Kamiah) and the two sewer systems (Kamiah and North Lapwai) serving the Nez Perce Tribe.
The Solid Waste Program (SWP) was designed for the protection of Water Quality for groundwater and surface water systems. The SWP has increased capacity as a result of Tribal lands being identified with multiple illegal waste dumping sites on water runoff locations which decrease fish populations, degrade the land, and pose potential risks to water quality. The overall harmful impacts to the environment are decreased as a result of the SWP operations of providing education outreach, waste disposal options, and building partnerships.
Energy Efficiency & Conservation
Environmental impact from energy production and usage is an important issue for the Nez Perce
Tribe and the US. It is critical to become more conservation minded and use more energy efficient
technologies in Tribal facilities and homes to help address the problems associated with our energy
The environmental code defines environmental responsibility, what constitutes environmental harm, and how a site is declared contaminated. Further, this code determines the governmental action that will be taken by the Nez Perce Tribe, within its sovereign powers, in the event of an unauthorized contamination of tribal lands and waters. Through enactment of this code, and subsequent sections, the Nez Perce Tribe will strengthen relations with co-managers in the region, clean the lands and waters within the reservation and ceded territory, and provide for economic, social, and recreational opportunities.