Existing Conditions and Assessment Conclusions
The Water Quality Control Plan for the Sacramento River Basin, which includes the Pit River watershed, specifies Beneficial Uses for individual waterbodies and water quality objectives required for protection of those uses. Beneficial Uses listed for the Pit River include the following:
- municipal supply
- agricultural supply
- contact and non-contact water recreation
- warm water aquatic habitat
- cold water aquatic habitat
- wildlife habitat
The Pit River is currently listed as impaired (per section 303(d) of the Federal Clean Water Act) due to the finding that selected water quality constituents are at levels which are not protective of one or more of the above beneficial uses. The identified constituents of concern are temperature, dissolved oxygen, and nutrient loading. While not a part of the 303(d) listing, turbidity and suspended sediment are known to be at relatively high levels in the Pit watershed and are at levels which impact recreation and aquatic life uses.
Water quality data for the Pit River and tributaries is available primarily from the following sources:
- Pit River Water Quality Study (1980, CA Dept. of Water Resources)
- Pit River Water Quality Monitoring Study (2001-2002, CA RWQCB)
- Pit River Watershed Monitoring Program (2003-2005, Pit River Alliance)
Fine sediment and algae accumulate on the Pit River substrate. Combined with high turbidity, this impacts aquatic organisms and overall biological diversity in the river.
Irrigation pasture runoff can cause elevated water temperature, bacteria, and nutrient loading.
A. The Pit RCD will support implementation of projects, which have direct or indirect benefits to water quality conditions in surface waters of the District. Priority projects include the following:
- projects which improve stream side vegetation and shade canopy to benefit water temperature
- projects which stabilize eroding stream channels to reduce turbidity levels, sediment discharge, and sediment deposition
- projects which improve water quality through better management of livestock such as fencing and off-stream water facilities
- projects which mitigate direct discharge of irrigation return flows and serve to reduce loadings of nutrients, bacteria, and high temperature
- projects which enhance instream flow (see discussion on Water Quantity)
B. The RCD will seek funding and implementation of a basic water quality monitoring program in the District that will provide a continuing evaluation of water quality conditions at selected sites and provide a basis for determination of long term trends.
C. The RCD will encourage participation in the CA RWQCB Irrigated Lands Discharge Program provided that the program includes the following components:
- minimal cost to individual landowners and local retention of discharge fees to support watershed improvement work within the Pit watershed
- program compliance based on development of individual ranch/farm conservation plans with oversight by local agricultural technical service providers
- compliance via one program addressing all potential ranch/farm water quality concerns (as opposed to separate programs for irrigation discharge, livestock management, erosion control, etc).