WATERSHED PROTECTION - A demonstration project on the Echo Creek Drainage
By Scott W. Paxman, P.E., Weber Basin Water Conservancy District
The Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), the Utah Division of Water Quality (UDWQ) and Weber Basin Water Conservancy District have identified Rees Creek as one of the primary sources of sediment loading in the Echo Creek watershed. A primary concern is the degradation of the Weber River system due to inputs of sediment from Echo Creek. The high sediment load in the Weber River has negative impacts to municipal, industrial and irrigation water supplies as well as the fishery. This takes on increased significance when some of the Echo Creek data is reviewed to illustrate the sediment problem that exists in the watershed. An earlier field evaluation released in 1987 by the SCS estimated that “95,000 tons, or 33 percent of sediment in the lower Weber system originated in the Echo Creek watershed.” The sediment loading into the Weber River by Rees Creek via Echo Creek has other significant downstream impacts. Phosphates associated with soil loss are introduced into the aquatic system, which can lead to a buildup of nutrients downstream resulting in diminished water quality. The Weber River is classified as 1C water that is protected for domestic purposes such as culinary use and irrigation. The influx of sediment compromises water quality and necessitates additional treatment. The sediment loading from Echo Creek results in the escalation of downstream treatment costs by the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District (WBWCD). WBWCD provides drinking water for population of over 415,000 in Weber and Davis Counties along the heavily populated Wasatch Front. “For the past two decades the WBWCD has witnessed sediment load increase to the point of reaching 3000 to 6000 NTU turbidity water coming from this drainage during thunderstorm events. It is having a major effect on the ability to treat water sufficiently.” The water quality of the Weber River is highly significant to the state of Utah. It is heavily used for culinary, agricultural and recreational purposes throughout its reach.
Through a cooperative effort with Ensign Ranches a water quality demonstration project was implemented on Rees Creek to improve water quality by reducing sediments entering Echo Creek. Sediment delivery from Rees Creek to Echo Creek was reduced by constructing several sediment control basins. Total suspended solids were reduced by as much as 98 % through the basins. Stream channel function and vegetative cover to riparian areas was also restored. Grazing management of the watershed will be improved. This project will serve as an innovative model, with direct application to other areas both within and outside the watershed. The overall goal of this project was to improve the water quality of Rees Creek; thus progressing towards Echo Creek achieving water quality standards that meet the criteria set for its beneficial uses.