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 of seven years. Detailed information on wetland plants, soils, hydrology, land use, wildlife habitat, and more were 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 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 banks.
• 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.