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Little Butte Creek Bacteria Study

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Little Butte Creek Bacteria Study 2011 (PDF 5.1 MB)

The Little Butte Creek Bacteria Study 2011 is a collaboration between Rogue Riverkeeper (RRK), Southern Oregon University (SOU), Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) the Jackson County Watermaster’s Office (JCWO) and the Medford Water Commission (MWC), with assistance from the City of Eagle Point.  While this project has been a collaborative effort, Rogue Riverkeeper takes full responsibility for any mistakes or omissions in this document.

The purpose of this study was to gain a more detailed understanding of current E. coli bacteria pollution levels and trends in streams in the Little Butte Creek watershed that are identified by DEQ as water quality impaired.  In addition, some sites were selected to help identify portions of the stream where E. coli pollution problems significantly worsen.  The intent of the study is to help inform and guide water quality restoration work throughout the watershed.

Water quality parameters (including E. coli, temperature, conductivity, pH and turbidity) were collected by RRK staff and SOU student volunteers from June 16th through October 31st.  Flow measurements were collected by MWC and JCWO staff from June 27th through October 31st 2011.

The data shows that fecal bacteria concentrations for the months of June through October are increasing, with a 99% confidence in a statistically significant upward trend since 1998.  Additionally the main stem of Little Butte Creek at the mouth needs an overall 59% reduction in fecal pollution to meet DEQ water quality criteria that indicate a healthy unimpaired waterway.  Some tributaries may require up to a 91% reduction in pollutants to meet DEQ water quality criteria.

Based on these results, significant improvements throughout the watershed will be required to bring Little Butte Creek to levels of fecal pollution that meet DEQ water quality criteria.  To achieve these reductions will require modernizing irrigation delivery methods by using sprinklers instead of flood irrigation, reducing overall quantity of water withdrawals and protecting and restoring stream buffers.  Many of these actions would be achieved through the proposed WISE (Water for Irrigation Streams and Economy) project should it be implemented.

Our study conducted field work from June through October of 2011, you can download our final report containing our findings and recommendations above.

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