PNW Tribal Water Resources Assessment

Science Center Objects

Native American Tribes in western Washington need comprehensive water data in order to protect, restore, and manage their water resources. To understand the factors affecting water quality and quantity on a regional scale, the data must be collected and managed through a systematic, coordinated approach.

To help the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission (NWIFC) to design a coordinated scientific plan for tribal studies of the impacts of the environmental factors on water resources and habitat, the USGS is providing the NWIFC with a plan that outlines a framework and guidance for tribal water and habitat studies.

9722-BTW - Pacific Northwest Tribal Water Resources Assessment - Completed FY2005

Problem - The protection, restoration, rehabilitation, and management of water resources in western Washington for in-stream and out-of-stream uses by Native American Tribes requires comprehensive information about water quantity, quality, and aquatic ecosystems. Such information is necessary to understand how several environmental factors affect the spatial and temporal distribution of the quantity and quality of water resources and improve or degrade the habitat of streams and rivers in Western Washington. Included among these factors are 1) water quality conditions, such as water temperature, dissolved oxygen, and pH, that are critical to fish survival; 2) insufficient stream flow due to competing demands for domestic, commercial, municipal, industrial, and agricultural supplies, hydroelectric power, and instream uses, specifically those for fish; 3) sediment loads and turbidity that affect the survival of anadromous fish; and 4) management practices related to flood control, land drainage, and land use that can alter stream habitat.

The Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission (NWIFC) approached the U.S. Geological Survey to help them design a scientific plan within which Native American Tribes in western Washington could conduct studies to collect information about, understand, and describe the impacts of these environmental factors on water resources and habitat. The NWIFC is an organization of twenty member that assists member tribes in managing their natural resources, including the protection, restoration, rehabilitation, and management of their water resources. Although the member tribes have individually collected data and conducted studies on their water resources, it has been difficult to compile this information to effectively understand water resources on a regional scale. This is because there generally has been no common approach to collecting data and conducting these studies, nor any systematic and coordinated data management. Thus, sampling and study designs, approaches, and data bases are not always compatible.

Objectives - The study objective is to provide the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission (NWIFC) and its member tribes with a scientific plan which can be used to ensure the compatibility and coordination of sampling and study efforts among the tribes. Thus, the plan will facilitate the subsequent compilation of the results of such studies. The plan also will support a flexible approach that considers the regional and watershed management goals for individual member tribes.

Relevance and Benefits - This project contributes to the USGS strategic goal of providing data and information for the systematic analysis and long-term management of natural resources (USGS, 2000). The investigation also supports interdisciplinary activities and Department of the Interior trust responsibilities to Native American Tribes. The project also addresses water availability and ecosystem health, which are two of the five major water issues identified for the State of Washington in the Washington District Strategic Plan (USGS, 1999 and 2000).

Approach - The USGS will prepare a scientific plan that outlines a framework and guidance within which data can be collected and studies conducted. The plan will outline the types of data that should be collected, how the data should be managed, types of studies to be conducted, and management tools that could be constructed. It will describe the need for a particular set of data or studies, how or where to obtain such data, and how the data should be compiled and managed. The plan will provide some general or broad scale guidelines, including a list of references and resources, to collecting data that will best accommodate the wide variety of tribal resources and data sources. It will not prescribe or recommend detailed methodologies or approaches. The plan will stress an interdisciplinary approach that integrates the studies of ground water, surface water, geology, geomorphology, water quality, biology, ecology, and the interactions between these areas of study. The plan also will consider the collection, organization, and use of data at multiple spatial scales needed to answer a variety of water resource management questions.