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New Subdivision Will Be Monitored for Water Quality Impacts

TitleNew Subdivision Will Be Monitored for Water Quality Impacts
Author/CreatorCobourn, John; Purdy, Shelly; Segale, Heather M.
Related item(s)Press Release available at
Date Original2005-10-17
Summary/DescriptionLake Tahoe Report Segment #139 - "New Subdivision Will Be Monitored for Water Quality Impacts" (Air Date: October 17, 2005).
SubjectBest management practices (Pollution prevention) -- Tahoe, Lake (Calif. and Nev.)
Water quality management -- Tahoe, Lake (Calif. and Nev.)
LocationLake Tahoe (Calif. and Nev.)
Tahoe, Lake (Calif and Nev)
CollectionThe Lake Tahoe Report
Original PublisherLake Tahoe Environmental Education Coalition (
Electronic PublisherUniversity of Nevada, Reno - Department of Teaching and Learning Technologies
Ordering and Permissions InformationFor more information, contact the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, or 775-832-4138.
Date Digital2006-02-15
RelationWindows Media Player
Resource TypeMoving Image
Contributing InstitutionUniversity of Nevada, Reno
TranscriptionSegment 139 - The development of new subdivisions in the Tahoe-Truckee region can be controversial. One of the concerns about development is that it could degrade the water quality in our lakes and streams. At one proposed development near Truckee, the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board is requiring a strict program of water testing to make sure water quality is not impaired. The proposed development of the Siller Ranch property in Martis Valley, near Truckee, would include a low-density residential development and a golf course. The control board will require water quality certification under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. Robert Coats, Ph.D., of Hydroikos Ltd. in San Rafael, California has developed a comprehensive water quality monitoring plan to ensure that the proposed development does not impair the water quality of Martis Creek or its associated aquifers. The plan calls for frequent sampling of the water in Martis Creek throughout the year, just above and below the proposed development. Automated equipment will record continuous measurements of stream flow and turbidity. Samples of nutrients and sediment will be collected weekly during much of the year, but when summer thunderstorms and other storms occur, sampling will take place when they are of sufficient size to produce runoff. By combining the continuous measurements of stream flow and turbidity and the weekly measurements of suspended sediment and total phosphorus, scientists will be able to estimate the total amounts of these constituents in the stream at all times. In order to comply with the control board's rules, contamination levels in the water must not exceed established numerical standards or threaten to impair the defined beneficial uses for the stream water, such as the propagation of cold-water fish. A second kind of monitoring, called adaptive monitoring, will test the effectiveness of best management practices (BMPs) throughout the development. This part of the plan was developed by Lori Carpenter of Huffman and Associates. If concentrations of any pollutant are found to be elevated above background levels or are in violation of the control board's standards, then adaptive management will trigger remedial steps. Any water quality impairment will require inspection of all BMPs in the development and repair or improvement of any that have failed. The plan also calls for changes in the management of the golf course if it is found that golf course fertilizers or chemicals have contributed to the contamination of the stream. Surface water will be tested during storms and during high snowmelt runoff. Five different drainage swales on or near the golf course and the overflow of golf course ponds and lakes will be sampled for nutrients and other contaminants. Groundwater will be sampled in "dry sumps" downslope from golf course greens. It will also be sampled in three shallow groundwater monitoring wells placed between the golf course and the stream. These wells will be checked during peak snowmelt and during the growing season, after fertilizer application and irrigation. The numerous water quality samples taken at different times of year will be compared to discover adverse water quality impacts. In addition, they will be compared with samples that have been taken above and below the parcel for over a year prior to construction of the development. The monitoring plan created by Coats is extensive and rigorous. The monitoring stations will be installed by a team of water quality scientists, including Raph Townsend and Alan Heyvaert of the Tahoe Environmental Research Center, and Todd Mihevc of the Desert Research Institute, with help from Scott Bower of the development company, DMB/Highlands Group. Mark Palmer of the Tahoe Environmental Research Center and High Sierra Water Laboratory will analyze the grab sample data from the golf course/BMP system and make recommendations as necessary. In many parts of the Tahoe-Truckee region, monitoring programs such as this are needed, but they are not often funded. The data from this program will give scientists much needed information about the effectiveness of the BMPs. Coats is one of many scientists that have called for just this kind of monitoring of projects in the Tahoe Basin. "What I'm hoping is that ultimately the techniques that are being developed here will be used in the Tahoe Basin and other sites in the Sierra, so that our work will contribute to the technology that's available for measuring water quality impacts, " he says.

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