National Park Service

North Coast and Cascades Network (NCCN)

Water Quality Monitoring

Water quality sampling at North Cascades National Park
Water quality sampling at North Cascades National Park

Resource Briefs

Monitoring Reports

Water Quality Monitoring Protocol

For more information contact: Ashley Rawhouser

Importance & Issues

Waters that vary within their natural ranges can typically support healthy aquatic ecosystems and most beneficial uses. The National Park Service (NPS) goal is that 99.3% of streams and rivers managed by the NPS will meet State and Federal water quality standards. Some water bodies within the NCCN are impaired or flow into an impaired water body.

The NCCN parks support Threatened & Endangered species; maintenance of high water quality is critical for the maintenance fish and amphibian populations. Mount Rainier National Park (MORA), North Cascades NPS Complex (NOCA) and Olympic National Park (OLYM) all support large numbers of backcountry recreational users who have direct contact with and consume surface waters. And finally, unimpaired water flowing from NPS lands provide a high value ecosystem service to downstream human, fish and wildlife populations.

Parks Monitored


Monitoring Objectives

  • Define status and trends of high risk waters.
  • Measure trends in reference conditions of selected surface waters.
  • Identify existing and emerging problems.
  • Support water quality management policy and program development.
  • Respond to emergencies.
  • Continue development and improvement of the understanding of the basic chemical, physical, and biological processes that affect environmental quality.

Potential Measures

  • Continuous Water Temperature
  • Continuous Air Temperature
  • Benthic Macroinvertebrates (BMI)
  • Water Resources Division Core Parameters - Dissolved Oxygen, pH, Specific Conductance, Temperature
  • Turbidity
  • Rapid Habitat Assessment
  • Stream/river physical habitat
  • Invasive Species

Management Applications

Some water bodies within NCCN are impaired or flow into an impaired water body. The abundance of these resources gives water quality a high ecological, management, and legal significance for the network. These resources support a variety of threatened and endangered species and human uses, including contact and non-contact recreation and water supply.

Due to their position in the landscape, these systems integrate the physical and biological characteristics of the watersheds they drain. This position puts them at an increased risk to a variety of environmental stressors. These stressors can include changes in flow regimes due to global warming, atmospheric pollution, and more localized disturbances related to land management activities and recreational use.

Some waters do not support, or only partially support, these uses due to impairment. When a watershed is constituted primarily of parklands, significant tangible management actions can be taken to improve the water quality when it is impaired and ensure that the high quality ecological services of NCCN are preserved.

Implementation of this monitoring protocol will provide park management with the data necessary to make effective decisions to ameliorate poor water quality and maintain the high water quality standards of NCCN water bodies.

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Last Updated: May 04, 2017 Contact Webmaster