Water quality

Puget Sound is unique in the lower 48 Unites States because of its fjord-like physiography, inland extent, wide range of depths, and urbanized watersheds and shorelines. Limited exchange of seawater between sub-basins within Puget Sound can result in long residence times, potentially increasing the susceptibility of biota to contamination introduced through human activities. The varied habitats within Puget Sound support multiple life history stages of many species, potentially exposing sensitive life stages to contamination. There are multiple water quality concerns in Puget Sound:

  • Levels of toxic contaminants in biota that live or feed in Puget Sound.
  • The eutrophication of marine waters, producing hypoxic and anoxic regions.
  • Wastewater contamination, principally from combined sewer overflows or septic systems
  • Harmful algal blooms, which introduce toxins that enter the food web
  • Acidification of marine waters, and the adverse ecological effects that result.

Degradation of water quality in Puget Sound occurs through three primary mechanisms. The first is through the introduction of toxic contaminants, primarily comprising manufactured synthetic chemicals, but also including compounds that occur naturally that are concentrated in the local environment to toxic levels via human activities. The second is through human-caused changes in naturally occurring chemicals, compounds, or physical parameters (e.g., temperature, turbidity, nutrients, pH). The third is through introduction of new diseases or pathogens, or through other activities that cause an unnatural increase in disease organisms.

Sources:

Puget Sound Science Review

 

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Image describing low oxygen "dead zones"; image courtesy of NOAA
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2015 Puget Sound Marine Waters Overview

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Rhinoceros Auklet carrying sand lance. Photo by Peter Hodum.
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FIGURE 2. Dorsoplanar computed tomography image of conjoined fetal twins in a harbor seal (Phoca vitulina) from San Juan County, Washington, USA. The arrow points to the fusion of the spines.
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Conjoined fetal twins in a harbor seal (Phoca vitulina)

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Stormwater facts

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Mist from the breath of killer whales is collected at the end of a long pole then tested for dozens of different types of bacteria. Photo: Pete Schroeder
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Guiding growth-healthy watersheds: Woodard Creek Basin water resource protection study

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McLane Creek Basin water resource protection study report cover
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Guiding growth-healthy watersheds: McLane Creek Basin water resource protection study

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Black Lake Basin water resource protection study report cover
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Guiding growth-healthy watersheds: Black Lake Basin water resource protection study

An EPA-funded study by the Thurston Regional Planning Council identified recommended strategies and actions to protect and improve water quality and aquatic resources in the Black Lake Basin. 

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2015 State of the Sound

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Sucralose, an artificial sweetener, is a good tracer of wastewater. It is present at low levels throughout the Puget Sound [1].
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Lower Duwamish Waterway dredging on Superfund site. Photo: Gary Dean Austin (CC BY-SA 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/49648789@N08/17069420399/
10/5/2015

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2015 Puget Sound Fact Book report cover
10/2/2015

2015 Puget Sound Fact Book

The 2015 Puget Sound Fact Book brings together statistics and other information about the health and makeup of the Puget Sound ecosystem. Areas of focus include climate change, geography, water quality, habitats, human dimensions and regional species. The fact book was prepared for the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound with funding from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Puget Sound Partnership.

Puget Sound portion of a 1798 chart showing "part of the coast of N.W. America : with the tracks of His Majesty's sloop Discovery and armed tender Chatham / commanded by George Vancouver, Esqr. and prepared under his immediate inspection by Lieut. Joseph Baker." Credit: Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.
9/18/2015

Puget Sound: a uniquely diverse and productive estuary

Puget Sound is the second largest estuary in the United States. Today, we understand that estuaries—where freshwater and saltwater merge—are among the most productive places for life to exist.

Puget Sound marine waters 2014 report cover
9/13/2015

2014 Puget Sound Marine Waters Overview

A report from NOAA and the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program provides an overview of 2014 marine water quality and conditions in Puget Sound from comprehensive monitoring and observing programs.

2014 state of salmon in watersheds report cover
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2014 state of salmon in watersheds executive summary

This report documents how Washingtonians have responded to the challenges of protecting and restoring salmon and steelhead to healthy status. It also serves as a tool to summarize achievements, track salmon recovery progress through common indicators, and identify data gaps that need to be filled.

Conference proceedings cover image
9/1/2015

Puget Sound Water Quality Conference Proceedings

The Puget Sound Water Quality Conference was held in Seattle, Washington, on September 30 and October 1, 1983. It included prominent speakers from the Puget Sound region, other parts of the United States, and Canada.

Appendix 5. Map of Skykomish/Tye River Control Locations 2014
8/21/2015

Protection and enhancement of riparian buffers in WRIA 7 through restoration and stewardship

The final report on a knotweed removal and native plant project from grant PO-00J08401 to King County DNR for the grant entitled: Protection and enhancement of the riparian buffers in WRIA 7 through restoration and stewardship.