How is Flat Creek’s Water Quality Trending?
Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality classified the aquatic health of Flat Creek as impaired in 1996, due to runoff from Jackson streets. Since then, Teton Conservation District, the Town of Jackson, and partners have worked to reduce pollutants that enter Flat Creek.
A primary tool that we use to measure the changing health of this, and other local streams, is by examining the aquatic bug life. Because these bugs are so diverse, they can tell us a lot about conditions in the stream. One of the most basic metrics we use is how many different taxonomic groups (richness) of sensitive mayflies (Ephemeroptera), caddisflies (Plecoptera) and Stoneflies (Trichoptera) we find in a sample. This metric is commonly called EPT taxa, in reference to the first letter of each of these insect Orders. The more EPT taxa you have, the better the water quality.
We have been collecting aquatic bug samples in Flat Creek since 1996, and presented here, are data collected in Flat Creek upstream of Highschool Rd, at the downstream boundary of the Town of Jackson. This location should show the effects of Jackson’s polluted runoff. What we see is that the highest richness of EPT taxa was actually found in 1996 and 1997, just after Flat Creek was deemed an impaired stream. It also shows us that between 2014 and 2017, we see an increase in sensitive EPT taxa.
These results are by no means conclusive, and they do show that we may still have a way to go to improve water quality in Flat Creek. But it is noteworthy that in 2012 the Karns Meadow Stormwater Treatment Wetland was installed, which treats some of Jackson’s worst runoff, the Town’s snow storage pile. Only time will tell if this trend will continue.
This is Carlin Girard closing down 2017 with a shout out to the bugs in Flat Creek.