Water quality concerns affects everybody in Whitman County. Roughly 94% of the county is currently being used for either dryland agriculture or ranching. These practices are known to degrade nearby water systems. Water quality concerns come from many factors from across the region. Read below to learn about a few of the water quality concerns facing the county.
Erosion and Sediment
Erosion runoff usually leads to water sources as they are the lowest situated spot in most areas. The large amount of sediment that runs into the Palouse waterways has negative effects on fish populations. Additionally, the sediment clogs waterways altering or preventing water flow and causes more flooding on the landsape. Increased severe flooding damages land and creates more erosion.
Water temperature is a vital piece to water quality. Water naturally occurs colder which enables it to hold more oxygen that increase species diversity, and effects water chemistry by allowing toxic chemicals to persist in warmer temperatures. Global water temperatures have been rising for a while and without help will contribute to greater water quality issues.
Human and Livestock Waste
Human and livestock waste has negative effects on water quality because of how concentrated it usually is and what it places in waterways. Both sources increase chemcials loads like nitrates and phosphates. At high levels these compounds harm ecossytems leading to large fish kills because the surrounding environment can’t filter all the compounds out quick enough. These also negatively effect human health and repeated exposure can lead to severe illness.
Humans have added made types of pollution to waterways including diseases, parasites, fertilizer, plastics, pharmaceuticals and more. These types of pollutants are usually invisible so people aren’t aware they even are in a water source. Pollutants cause turn water toxic making it unusable for human consumption or to water crops or household plants. Polluntants are estimated to cause the death of over 500,000 people globally per year.