8. Existing Targets for Puget Sound

This section provides a brief summary of existing targets for Puget Sound including those for species, habitats, water quality, and water quantity.

Existing Species Targets

In Puget Sound, target reference levels have been assigned to a subset of ecosystem indicators. For indicators meant to inform the PSP Species Goal, it is worth noting that targets have been established primarily for species that have been listed as vulnerable, threatened, endangered, etc. at the state or federal level (especially marine mammals). Consequently, these targets frequently represent minimum requirements because many of the species were or are currently recovering from depressed states. Once achieved, such targets should be considered limit reference levels under the vocabulary introduced in this Section, and new targets should be established. Table 30 presents a selection of Species indicators that clearly met the “Linkable to scientifically-defined reference points and progress targets” criterion and for which targets have been defined in Puget Sound or Washington State specifically.

Existing Habitat Targets

We identified targets for two indicators meant to inform the PSP Habitats Goal: riparian habitat and aggregation/deposition zones (Table 31). For riparian habitats, we report targets for indicators intended to represent important ecosystem functions such as sediment, nutrient, and pollutant removal, erosion control, recruitment of large woody debris, regulated water temperature, availability of habitat for wildlife, and diversity of microclimates. For aggregation/deposition zones, we report a target that would ensure the maintenance of the structure and function of this habitat type in its current form.

Existing Water Quality Targets

The State of Washington has developed several sets of standards and criteria for both freshwater and marine surface water quality. Standards for physical and chemical parameters are generally established based on habitat type or water use category. For freshwater the Aquatic Life Use categories are summarized in Table 32; the Recreational Use categories are summarized in Table 36 (Washington State Department of Ecology 2006a, Washington State Department of Ecology 2006c). Water use designations for individual rivers and streams are listed by Water Resource Inventory Area (WRIA) in WAC 173-201A-602. The Aquatic Life Use categories for marine waters are summarized in Table 33. The majority of Puget Sound is listed as Extraordinary quality with the exception of designated bays and inlets (e.g. Elliot Bay, South Puget Sound, and Possession Sound) which are listed as either Excellent or Good. The sole area with a Poor designation is a portion of Commencement Bay, south and east of south 11th Street (Washington State Department of Ecology 2010).

Summaries of the water quality criteria for physical and chemical properties in freshwater and marine water are presented in Table 32 and Table 33, respectively. Nutrient action levels for lakes are listed in Table 34. Surface water quality criteria for freshwater and marine waters for trace organic and inorganic chemicals is shown in Table 35; additional criteria for the protection of human health are included in Chapter 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (Environmental Protection Agency 2006). Water quality criteria for bacteria, which are meant to be protective of human health, are listed in Table 36.

Existing Water Quantity Targets

There are three indicators of Freshwater Water Quantity with established goals or targets (Table 37). Instream flow rule establish minimum flow requirements on several rivers and streams in the Puget Sound region. The flow rules are meant to legally acknowledge ecological flow requirements. A detailed review of the actual flow regimes versus the instream flow rules is presented in Chapter 2 of the PSSU.

There are also targets for flooding that are established at each gauge station. While not strictly goals, these can be used to monitor the potentially effects of land use change or climate change on flooding. Finally the State of Washington has established efficiency requirements through the Municipal Water Law. While this does not strictly define conservation targets it does mandate system loss limited and the establishment of efficiency programs within each supply system.