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Southern Ute Indian Tribe

Water Quality Program

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Program Manager

Alexandra Ratcliff

§106 Pollution Prevention Control Program

The §106 Program monitors 23 aquatic sites across the Reservation. These sites include rivers, streams, and Lake Capote. At each of these sites, chemical, physical and biological data are collected. General water quality monitoring occurs year round and in all weather conditions. The gathered data is utilized for general monitoring across the reservation and for the development of water quality standards which form the basis for protecting the SUIT water supply. The program is in the process of acquiring Treatment as a State (TAS) status through the EPA. Groundwater monitoring is a service that is provided free of charge to Tribal membership within the reservation. Any Tribal member interested in an analysis of their groundwater is encouraged to contact the §106 Program for an application to have their well tested.

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§319 Nonpoint Source Program

The goal of the nonpoint source program is to improve water quality on the Reservation through the implementation of stream and riparian habitat restoration projects, education and outreach on nonpoint source pollution issues, and agricultural irrigation and land management improvements through collaborative efforts.

Nonpoint source pollution comes from many diffuse locations such as agricultural fields, storm runoff, degraded stream banks, and degraded riparian areas within a watershed. Nonpoint source pollution cannot be regulated through the clean water act and is administered by the nonpoint source program. Since its creation in 1996, the §319 program has implemented Agricultural best management practices on over 900 acres of land and has restored almost five miles of rivers and streams on the Reservation.

Stream Restorations

Degraded streams and riparian areas are a large contributor of nonpoint source pollution. There are many streams and riparian areas on the Reservation that are degraded due to hydromodification (the alteration of hydrologic characteristics of a water body), agricultural activities, road disturbance, and from other activities that have impacted the watershed. Streams that are experiencing excessive erosion due to insatiability contribute large amounts of sediment to the watershed, which can have adverse effects to aquatic life and can have other negative effects on the dynamics of the stream. Excessive bank erosion is not only an issue for water quality, but can also threaten infrastructure like homes, roads, etc. Degraded riparian areas are not as capable as healthy riparian areas in filtering pollutants before they enter a creek or river, and they provide less stability to stream banks than healthy riparian areas. Healthy riparian areas are not only good for water quality but also provide essential habitat for many important species of plants and animals.

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Agricultural Best Management Practices (Cost Share Program)

Since 2004, the SUIT §319 program has been utilizing EPA §319 competitive grant funds to implement agricultural best management practices (BMPs) through the §319 program’s cost share program on Tribal and private land within the exterior boundary of the Southern Ute Indian Reservation. The BMPs that the cost share program supplies are improved irrigation equipment (typically gated pipe), riparian exclusion fencing, field filter strips, and off-stream watering sources. Currently, there are 44 active cost share participants that cover approximately 975 acres within the Southern Ute Indian Reservation, with most of the projects within watersheds that flow to the Pine River. The types of BMPs that have been implemented by the cost share program are gated pipe (approx. 913 acres), riparian exclusion fencing (approx. 29 acres), and field filter strips (approx. 32 acres). Annually, the implemented BMPs reduce approximately 1,237 pounds of nitrogen, 133 pounds of phosphorous, and 31 tons of sediment from entering the creeks and rivers on the Reservation. If you or someone you know may be interested in implementing agricultural BMPs, please contact the nonpoint source program.

Education and Outreach

The nonpoint source program also strives to offer as much education and outreach as possible since nonpoint source pollution cannot be reduced without community involvement and participation. Nonpoint source pollution occurs when runoff from rain or snow melt flows moves across the land. The runoff picks up anything and everything found on the land, which can include pollutants of many forms (e.g., excess nutrients from fertilizers, oil from cars, uncontrolled stormwater runoff from construction sites, unmaintained septic systems, etc.). These pollutants are then carried into water bodies, and their concentrations rise as each stream flows into the next. Since individuals and the community play a crucial role in affecting water quality, education and outreach are essential to changing attitudes, modifying activities, and bringing awareness to the local community that will improve water quality for the long term. If you would like to learn more about nonpoint source pollution or would like to discuss outreach opportunities, please contact the Water Quality office.

Services Provided to the Tribal Membership

The Water Quality Program provides the following services to tribal members:

  • Provides assistance with agricultural land use practices that can benefit water quality. Improved irrigation equipment, field filter strips, off-stream watering sources, and riparian exclusion fencing.
  • Provides assistance with stream bank erosion and riparian enhancement projects. We can assist tribal members who are experiencing stream bank erosion, degraded riparian habitat, and other issues regarding streams and rivers.
  • Provides education and outreach to the tribal membership regarding water quality.
  • Provides technical assistance regarding any nonpoint source pollution issues.