Main threats to North Idaho water quality

  • Irresponsible development: North Idaho’s communities are growing rapidly. Poorly planned and located developments are impacting waterways through the loss of wetlands, shoreline vegetation, and fish and wildlife habitat. Shoreline developments are also increasing water pollution through the use of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. Seepage from septic systems is also increasing toxic algae blooms. 
  • Pollution: There are many antiquated or undersized sewage treatment plants that discharge effluent to Idaho waterways. These plants need to be replaced or upgraded. Many industrial facilities are also in need of modern pollution control technologies to protect water quality.

Water Quality Monitoring Program

The Water Quality Monitoring Program (WQMP) is a consistent, long-term monitoring effort to measure water quality across Lake Pend Oreille and the Pend Oreille River. This is a citizen-science initiative led by dedicated community volunteers. The program’s goals are to inform the public and provide high-quality scientific data that regulatory agencies can use when making water quality-based decisions for our local waterways. Each site is evaluated for 11 different biological, chemical, and physical tests, and monitoring occurs once a month from May through September.

Taking these measurements on a regular basis helps us understand local waterways and the overall health of our lake and river systems.

Anyone can become a WQMP volunteer! Interested volunteers must attend a WQMP training which occurs in April and early May before the monitoring season begins. Volunteers must be able to access their monitoring location by some form of watercraft (kayak, canoe, etc.). Training sessions for the WQMP will be posted on our “Upcoming Events” page when they are scheduled. For more information, email Becca Rodack, brodack@idahoconservation.org

Program Background

In 2009, a group of Sandpoint community members came together to form the Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper (LPOW). This nonprofit served as the watchdog for water quality of Lake Pend Oreille and related waters, with the goal of keeping these waters drinkable, fishable and swimmable for future generations. They began the Water Quality Monitoring Program for Lake Pend Oreille, and grew a strong, informed community of lake advocates.

In 2021, LPOW decided to close their doors after 12 years of service and approached ICL about taking on their water quality advocacy. ICL’s North Idaho Lakes Advocacy program officially launched in 2022 with the hiring of our first full-time staff member dedicated to protecting water quality in the panhandle. We saw an opportunity to expand this program beyond Lake Pend Oreille to protect the other waters, and our Lakes Advocacy program now aims to protect Lake Pend Oreille, Lake Coeur d’Alene, Priest Lake, the Kootenai River and more for now and future generations.