A River Runs Through It- Water Quality in Protected Places

August 29, 2022

As the days of August wind down, the heat of summer is still in high gear. Days spent floating or wading in cool waters offer respite from the warm temperatures, and thankfully the Inland Northwest has no shortage of rivers and lakes to choose from. Coincidentally, August is National Water Quality month, and we want to highlight just a few of the Conservancy’s agreements that contribute to fresh water in the Inland Northwest. These agreements safeguard wildlife corridors from development, receive active monitoring and maintenance to support native flora and fauna, and as we will focus on here, protect the wetlands, creeks, and springs in places that play an important role in water quality.

McKenzie Conservation Area
Newman Lake is the largest naturally occurring lake in Spokane County. The conservation area is one of the last large tracts of undeveloped open space on the lake. The timbered hills of Mt. Spokane are fragile and erode easily when disturbed, sending sand and silt down the creeks into the lake. The lake is extremely vulnerable to high phosphorus levels and water quality is a real concern for residents. The conservation agreement property includes 151 acres of wetlands that act as a giant sponge and filter to protect the water quality of Newman Lake. Its permanent protection contributes to the sustained water quality of Newman Lake and the preservation of its habitat.

McKenzie Conservation Area

The Bryan Easement
The 322-acre Bryant easement makes up one of the few completely natural areas along Hangman Creek. With a mile-long stretch running through the property, the conservation agreement ensures the section will remain safeguarded forever. This property has an intact riparian corridor, home to many migratory birds, and used as feeding and breeding grounds for songbirds, upland birds, raptors, and whitetail deer.

Richards on Hayden Lake
The 65-acre easement at the toe of Hayden Lake is perhaps one of the most important places the Conservancy has protected for water quality. Hayden Lake contributes, on average, 45 million gallons of water to the Spokane Valley-Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer every day. Water spills onto the property and forms a channel, which simply disappears into the gravels of the Hayden Lake area. That water flows slowly through the aquifer, filtering, and cooling, until it’s either pumped out for our consumption or spills out of springs like those at the Waikiki Springs Nature Preserve. Without the protection of this place, it could have been subdivided and developed. The wetlands and creeks that funnel the water from Hayden Lake into our aquifer would have been lost, and the quality of those 45 million gallons (per day!) that we rely on would plummet.  

Sacheen Springs
Sacheen Springs is a special place in the Little Spokane Watershed. The property supports a valuable wetland complex with notably high habitat diversity, including a rare sedge bog wetland. These wetlands, as well as surrounding uplands, provide abundant wildlife habitat, protect and improve water quality, reduce flooding and erosion, and provide water storage. The property consists of open water, seeps, springs, perennial and annual creeks and 51 of the 109 acres are wetlands. This is a source of clean, pure water for the Little Spokane River.

Sacheen Springs

Learn more about National Water Quality Month here.