Water Quality Monitoring

Water Quality Monitoring 300 x 256

In the dry west, the quality, availability, and use of water are a hot topic. Bowdoin NWR utilizes the same delivery system as farmers do in the Milk River Valley, but instead of growing wheat as the farmers do, the water on the Refuge is used to provide valuable wetland habitat for birds through the seasons. Water monitoring of both surface and ground water (as seen in the picture) in wetland basins and canals, allows us to track water quality and quantity conditions. For this part of Montana, our biggest water quality issue is salinity. Salts naturally occur in this area, but changes to the landscape have altered the ability of basins to naturally flush. Enhancements to these basins have made a once temporary wetland more semi-permanent, thus holding water for longer periods of time. Holding water for longer periods and the lack of flushing has led to an increase in salt concentrations, especially in Lake Bowdoin. As for water quantity, the lack of water in this region is due to low precipitation (avg 12"/year) and high evaporation rates (avg 24"/year). Therefore, the refuge is dependent on delivered water to fill wetlands.
Since the wetland complex found on Bowdoin has been enhanced by water control structures, it is important to monitoring water quality and quantity, and other habitat characteristics. Monitoring assists managers in creating management plans to maintain all the wetland basins productive, dynamic, and fully functional for a whole host of wetland dependent birds.