What’s New/Updates
Swim Guide link.   Link to Swim Guide website that provides information on E. coli levels of local lakes, the Rogue River, and other swimming areas.
Stream Gage links.   Links to real time temperature and flow data from Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRD) and/or Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) stream gages at or near TMDL Effectiveness monitoring stations.
Water Quality Press Releases – Information press releases for the public based on monitoring results of streams that have tested above the State water quality standard for bacteria (summer only).   Please note these are advisory only.
TMDL Background, History, and Why We Monitor
Under the Clean Water Act, States  must identify water bodies that are not meeting water quality standards and determine what pollutants are causing the concerns. Once identified, allowable pollutant loadings or total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) are calculated for each pollutant. TMDLs define the amount of pollutants that can be present in a given waterbody without causing impairments to its designated beneficial uses (e.g., swimming, irrigation, fish rearing and spawning). The allowable contribution is divided up among sources in the watershed including agriculture, urban, forestry, and natural (background)  sources. Designated management agencies (DMAs) responsible for meeting the TMDL requirements, are identified as being responsible for implementing actions to improve water quality conditions.
TMDLs were completed for Bear Creek in 1992 and 2008. Central Point, Medford, Phoenix, Talent, Ashland, Jacksonville, Jackson County, Medford Irrigation District, Talent Irrigation District,  and Rogue River Valley Irrigation Districts  were identified as  DMAs. As a result, plans were developed and are being implemented to meet TMDL goals. Key components in include  water quality monitoring, participation in the TMDL program, using low  impact development  strategies, riparian restoration. and education.


The Rogue Valley Council of Governments (RVCOG) has performed water quality sampling and analysis in the Bear Creek Watershed since the 1960s.The monitoring program was initially developed to help the cities of Central Point, Medford, Phoenix, Talent, Ashland, Jacksonville, and Jackson County identify what kinds of pollutants (if any) were causing a problem to local waters. Bear Creek was identified as a water quality limited stream leading to the development of the initial TMDL in 1992, the second in Oregon following the Tualitan River. Additional requirements focusing on bacteria and temperature were established in 2008. Following  the new TMDL and the need to evaluate the effectivess of the implementation program, a study was completed to restructure the monitoring program to evaluate the effectiveness of the TMDL programs. Changes were initiated in July of 2011.
Current Program (Ongoing) –  July 1st, 2011 to present
1.   Effectiveness Monitoring Program:   In July 2011, the monitoring program was changed to reflect recommendations from an effectiveness monitoring program study. The study recommended changing the program and implement a 5-year program to focus on evaluating the effectiveness of implementation projects being completed throughout the watershed. Changes to the program including adding additional sites, removing several sites, changing sampling parameters (adding and removing parameters) , and changing sampling procedures. Maps (GPS’d Google Earth Image), data,  and other information will be added to this page as they become available.
2.   Illicit Discharge (storm drains and hot spot):   This portion of the monitoring program continues the sampling framework and procedures established in the previous sampling program. Illicit discharge monitoring involves sampling several storm drains annually in each DMA three times. Samples are collected during the summer (dry weather), and during two storm events (flushes). The second portion of the program is the hot spot program which allows RVCOG to serve as a point of contact for water quality concerns and also provides for a limited sampling program for investigating concerns.
Google Map of stormdrain sites (updated January 2014)
Storm Drain Investigation
Hotspot Investigation
To report a complaint:
3.   QA/QC Sampling:    This program is conducted in conjunction with the effectiveness monitoring program. The Quality Assurance/Quality Control program consists of both external measures (e.g., split sampling with DEQ) and internal measures (splits, duplicates, blanks). The purpose of the program is to ensure that the monitoring program is meeting the standards necessary to maintain its consistent methods and highly rated data submittals to the LASAR database system.
4.   WISE Monitoring:   Beginning September 1, 2015 RVCOG has been collecting water quality samples for the WISE Monitoring Program in partnership with the RRWC, the Water Master, and the SWCD.   Water quality parameters measured include, E.coli, ammonia, nitrate-nitrite and phosphorus.   The project areas covers 4 locations along Bear Creek and Little Butte Creek watersheds.
5.   Temperature Study:   In May 2015, Rogue River Watershed Council, The Freshwater Trust, Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife and RVCOG teamed together in a temperature study aimed at identifying cold water refugia in Bear Creek.   Twenty two temperature data loggers were deployed at various locations along Bear Creek to identify temperature patterns.
6.   Public Education and Awareness:   During the summer months, RVCOG releases a public notice advisory for streams that test over the water quality standards (absolute standard for a single sample of >406 mpn). The release is an advisory notice only and DOES NOT result in the closures of local streams to contact recreation. It does, however ask residents to take precautions when in contact with the water. Press releases are sent out as needed (based on sampling results). Click here for a copy of the current Press Release text. Please note this is an example. Streams listed on the notice are holdovers from a previous year and do not indicate current contamination levels.
Press Release:
Limited information exists on popular swimming areas in the region.   The best information available can be found on the Waterkeeper Swim Guide website and app.
Monitoring Results
Monitoring data collected from July 1st, 2011 through June 30th, 2013 is currently under review. Following internal and external review, the data will be available for download in an excel spreadsheet.
Raw Data- Effectiveness Monitoring
 Storm Drain Monitoring
Hot Spot Monitoring
  • Griffin Creek concern August 2013
  • Contact List -Revised January 2014
  • Blue Green Algae – July 2012.   Completed NPS Form.
  • Mining Concern – Wolf Creek – August 2012
Stream Gages (OWRD/BOR)
Water Quality Information
  • Soap versus Foam in local creeks.   Fact Sheet from the Charles River Watershed Association.
  • Clean Water Benefits All of Us   – Info sheet
  • Fishing and Blue-Green Algae blooms – info sheet
Previous  Program 1996 to June 30th, 2011 (Discontinued)
The monitoring program consisted of four main elements:
1. Routine Stream Monitoring (10 sites): analyze baseline water quality primarily on the mainstem of Bear Creek.
2. TMDL Monitoring (15 Sites): evaluate tributary contributions of nutrients, bacteria, temperature, and sediments to Bear Creek.
3. Storm Drain Monitoring (15 sites): evaluate the pollutant contributions of the local storm drains to Bear Creek.
4. Hot Spot Monitoring (number of samples varies): investigate acute incidents of pollution and other activities near local waters.
Click on the map for a larger view of the monitoring sites in the Bear Creek watershed (1996-2011 program).
Parameters monitored include:
  • E. coli (bacteria)1
  • Total suspended solids 3
  • Temperature 1, 2  
  • Conductivity 1
  • Phosphorus 1
  • Ammonia 1
  • Oxygen levels (dissolved oxygen and biological oxygen demand) 3
  • pH 1
  • Turbidity 1
  • Discharge 1
  • Macroinvertebrates 1,4

 1 Currently monitored

2 Changed to continuous recorders at most locations in Summer 2011.

3 No longer monitored.   Sampling ended June 30th, 2011.

4 Parameter added in July 2011.

Monitoring Results

Results from the monitoring are used in meeting the TMDL requirements, in project effectiveness monitoring, to prioritize restoration projects, and for long term watershed health evaluation.  The monitoring program operates under a DEQ approved Quality Assurance/Quality Control Plan and RVCOG’s data has been consistently rated as high quality data by DEQ.

Other Program Elements: Annual water quality reports, quarterly TMDL meetings, education and outreach, and serve as a point of contact for water quality concerns.
Water Quality Standards
Water quality standards are benchmarks established to assess whether the quality of Oregon’s rivers and lakes is adequate for fish and other aquatic life, recreation, drinking, agriculture, industry and other uses. Water quality standards are also regulatory tools used by the State Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to prevent pollution of our waters. States are required to adopt water quality standards by the federal Clean Water Act. States submit their standards to EPA for approval.   For more background on water quality standards, see the Water Quality Standards  fact sheet.   Information courtesy of DEQ.
Table of Current Water Quality Standards in the Bear Creek Watershed
Monitoring Program Partners

The monitoring program is funded by the Cities of Ashland, Talent, Phoenix, Medford, Central Point, and Jacksonville, Jackson County, and the  Department of Agriculture (ODA).   Other partners that participate in the program include   the  Department  of Forestry (ODF), Rogue Valley  Sewer Services (RVS), and the  Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).   Lab space for analyzing samples is donated by the Vernon Thorpe Water Reclamation Facility.


Monitoring Reports

Click on the links below for more information on the monitoring program.