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King County Water Quality Monitoring

The Water Resource Inventory Area (WRIA) 7 Routine Streams Monitoring Program was established during 2011 and consists of twelve sampling sites that are distributed throughout the Snoqualmie and Skykomish watersheds. Historically in King County, routine streams monitoring has been centered on WRIA 8 (Lake Washington/Cedar/Sammamish) and WRIA 9 (Green-Duwamish). However, in 2011 a Surface Water Management (SWM) fee increase allowed King County to expand its regular water quality monitoring efforts to include the King County portions of the WRIA 7 drainage. Objectives of this program are focused on quantifying long-term water quality trends to help inform the management of salmon recovery efforts, land use regulation, and to prepare for expected increases in climate variability.

King County collects monthly water quality samples on the North Fork of the Snoqualmie River at the 428th Ave Bridge near its confluence with the Middle Fork. King County is not currently conducting benthic macroinvertebrate or stream sediment monitoring in the WRIA 7 Routine Streams Monitoring Program.

Watershed

Water Shed Image

The North Fork Snoqualmie River sampling location drains more than 66,000 acres that is almost entirely forested within a patchwork of federal, state, and private ownership. The headwaters flow from Lake Kanim in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness near the crest of the Cascade Mountains.

Total land use in the North Fork Snoqualmie River basin is mostly (evergreen) forest with very little developed (residential), agricultural, and wetlands. In addition, there is some scrub and other land uses (barren land, grassland, and open water). See Table 1 below for more details on land use.

Table 1. Total land use in the basin

Agriculture Developed Forest Scrub Wetlands Other
Total <1% 3% 72% 16% 1% >8%

Fisheries

Volunteers with the Salmon Watcher Program recorded observations of Chinook, sockeye, coho, and kokanee salmon. Chum salmon were also seen, but not often ("Stream List," 2016). Cutthroat trout have known distributions in headwater tributaries of the North Fork, while rainbow trout and non-native eastern brook trout are also found in lower elevation areas (Overman, 2008).

Water Quality

Water quality samples are analyzed monthly for temperature, dissolved oxygen (DO), pH, conductivity, turbidity, total suspended solids, ortho-phosphorus, total phosphorus, ammonia, nitrate-nitrogen, total nitrogen, and fecal coliform (FC) bacteria. Results are compared to state water quality standards. Water quality standards are designed to protect public health and aquatic life. Comparing monitoring results to water quality standards allows an understanding of how safe the creek is for recreational contact as well as for aquatic life (see link at top of page to view current water data).

State water quality standards were revised in 2003. The North Fork of the Snoqualmie River is now categorized as “Core Summer Salmonid Habitat” for aquatic life use and “Extraordinary Contact” for recreational use. As part of the updated water quality standards, portions of the North Fork Snoqualmie River have been assigned an additional “Supplemental Spawning and Incubation Protection” temperature criteria of 16 °C. A short reach of the North Fork near its mouth is not listed on the Washington State Department of Ecology's (Ecology) 303(d) list for impaired streams. There are two types of EPA-approved total maximum daily load (TMDL) plans in place and implemented for the river: a Snoqualmie River Watershed Multiparameter TMDL for DO and a Snoqualmie River Watershed Temperature TMDL (Category 4a).

See Table 2 below for routine monitoring summary statistics of water quality data collected to date. If stormwater data is available for this site, it will be shown as Table 3. Historical data reviews can be found in the annual reports produced by METRO/King County DNRP.

To view charts of current water quality data, please visit the Data Download webpage.

Water Quality Index

A Water Quality Index (WQI) rating system was developed by Ecology that evaluates several water quality parameters and gives a single rating of “high,” “moderate,” or “low” water quality concern. To see how North Fork of the Snoqualmie River ratings compare with other stream sites, please visit the Water Quality Index webpage.

Table 1. Routine monitoring summary statistics for this station from 2011 to 2019
ParameterNumber of SamplesMeanMinimumMaxmiumMedianStandard Deviation
Dissolved Oxygen (mg/L)10211.17.913.311.51.4
Temperature (°C)1028.52.916.07.43.7
Turbidity (NTU)912.140.2139.800.924.65
pH1016.916.267.576.880.27
Conductivity (mSIEMS/cm)10234.815.368.931.812.6
Total Suspended Solids (mg/L)1025.100.50122.001.6014.23
Ortho-Phosphorus (mg/L)1010.00180.00050.02100.00120.0028
Total Phosphorus (mg/L)1010.01090.00500.06640.00780.0107
Ammonia (mg/L)1010.00420.00200.06100.00270.0089
Nitrate (mg/L)1010.22150.08830.42800.22000.0742
Total Nitrogen (mg/L)1010.27570.13500.45900.27500.0722
Fecal Coliform(CFU/100ML)102231440958

Hydrology

p> King County is not currently operating any stream, rain, or temperature gages in the North Fork of the Snoqualmie River. However the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) does operate a stream gage on the North Fork near Snoqualmie Falls (12142000).

Benthic Invertebrates

Benthic macroinvertebrates are small animals visible to the naked eye (macro) that lack a backbone (invertebrate) and live in or around the streambed (benthic). This group includes aquatic insects (such as mayflies and dragonflies), crustaceans, clams, snails, and worms. Benthic macroinvertebrates are of interest to scientists and water resource managers because they are an excellent indicator of the biological health of stream ecosystems and are a critical component of the food web in aquatic communities. Scientists quantify the composition and diversity of benthic macroinvertebrate populations in a stream to compare the biologic integrity of different streams. King County has utilized benthic macroinvertebrate sampling to assess biological health of numerous creeks across the county (see map).

For more information about benthic macroinvertebrates and King County’s Benthic Macroinvertebrate Program, please visit the King County Stream Bug Monitoring webpage.

While King County is not conducting benthic macroinvertebrate monitoring on the North Fork of the Snoqualmie River as part of the WRIA 7 Routine Streams Monitoring, King County collected benthic data from a major tributary of the North Fork, Tate Creek, in 2006. To see this data, please visit the Puget Sound Stream Benthos.