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Watershed Wellness

This information is also included on our Did you know? page with short videos on the topics.

Our Favorite Thanksgiving Tradition: Water conservation, one apple at a time

Want to help farms save water? Want to keep water in streams for fish? Or, do you just want to save money on your water bill so you can give more toward gifts? You’ve been asking what YOU can do to conserve water so, here’s how to use water wisely by reducing at-home food waste!

Click here to read the column.


Bitterroot guides host Cash for Cutthroats fundraiser

On June 17 a collection of Bitterroot Guides will donate their day’s tips to the Bitter Root Water Forum, expressing their commitment to helping the organization continue its efforts to restore and protect the Bitterroot’s tributaries — our fish factories.

Guides participating in ‘Cash for Cutthroats’ understand the difference that clean, cool streams make for our valley’s vibrant fishing landscape and that without proactive stewardship its long-term stability is vulnerable.

Click here to read the column.

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Join our Watershed Enhancement Team

We work diligently to restore and enhance our unique water resources and features, but with a watershed 2,899 square miles in size, of course, we can’t do it alone. With long-term volunteer help we are able to implement, monitor and maintain restoration projects throughout the valley, ensuring their ongoing success.


As we start this year’s restoration season, we invite you to join our volunteer team for water in the Bitterroot.

Click here to read the column.


Water-wise gardens to save water and welcome wildlife

As more families join in sharing our water resources, it’s critical that we each use water wisely to conserve this clean and abundant resource.  If you have a yard you can significantly benefit water conservation by adding native, drought-tolerant plants to your garden or lawn.


Regionally native plants are diverse and brilliant and, with the right preparation, can make your outdoor spaces a delightful place.

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Groundwater Awareness and Septic Systems

Septic systems are underground wastewater treatment systems, commonly used in areas where municipal water and sewer services are not available.  A combination of nature and technology are used to treat wastewater from household plumbing produced by bathrooms, kitchen drains, and laundry. Systems may vary in their method of filtration and discharge but common elements include a septic tank and a drainfield.


It is a homeowner’s responsibility to have their septic system inspected and maintained regularly.

Click here to read the column.

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Channel migration is a natural process for Bitterroot River

The Bitterroot River moves, it migrates, and this a natural and important process.

When you walk, run, float, swim, wade, waddle, or fish the Bitterroot River, you probably notice differences from year to year. Maybe a familiar gravel bar extends further out toward the river or you need to re-route a well-trodden path because, well, it’s not there anymore; it’s been replaced by the river.


Click here to read column.


New year, new river? Making water quality resolutions

It’s a new year, which for many people, means a time for resolutions and reflections. If you expected this to be about New Year’s diet resolutions, you have the wrong wellness column. I will reflect on pollution diets, otherwise known as Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs).

2022 marks 10 years since the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) concluded water quality monitoring for TMDLs in the Bitterroot watershed.


Click here to read column.


With gratitude for our river and our community

Winter has arrived in the Bitterroot. The recent memory of brilliant yellow cottonwoods has been replaced with bare branches hanging over the river. Mornings bring frost-covered fields that glint in the sunrise. Snow is accumulating on the mountain tops, and we all collectively hold our breath hoping it will build a healthy snowpack in the coming months.


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The ABCs of the Bitterroot Conservation District

Since the early 1940s, the Bitterroot Conservation District (BCD) has worked with the citizens of Ravalli County to conserve their soil, water and other natural resources. The specific activities of the BCD have evolved over the years, but its core mission of promoting natural resource conservation has remained unchanged.

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Water Rights Demystified

Water is a vital aspect of life. There can be lots of questions about water. Who can use the water? How much can they use? When can it be used? What can it be used for? All of these questions fall into the realm of water rights.

This month the Bitter Root Water Forum help put on a training for Real Estate professionals called “Water Rights Demystified.” The class began with the statement “Water rights are not black and white,” they can be complex and at times straight-up confusing. But we’ll start to scratch the surface.

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Irrigation in the Bitterroot

In the Bitterroot Valley, irrigation is ingrained with the way of life for many. It's the water that feeds the fields and the animals; water that determines the hay harvests. Irrigation is a multi-faceted task that often involves the collaboration of users and managers, and an understanding of how water cycles in our watershed, from snowpack to soil infiltration.


There are many irrigation districts and associations throughout the valley. The Water Forum talked with two of the largest, Bitter Root Irrigation District (BRID) and Daly Ditches, for our upcoming virtual Irrigation in the Bitterroot Tour.

Click here to read column.


Hoot Owl restrictions on the Bitterroot River

This summer has been one marked by intense heat waves and prolonged drought across Montana, with wildfire smoke masking the skies and concealing the mountains.

These conditions have caused dangerous health conditions in people and dampened the enjoyment of outdoor recreation, they have also had an impact on our watershed and its wildlife.

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Bitterroot River Clean-Up set for Aug. 14

Summer has arrived in the Bitterroot, and with it has come a flood of recreators enjoying the Bitterroot River, from Sula to Missoula. With all the activity and life surrounding the river, there are many things picked up and carried in its waters.

An increase in use often leads to an increase in the trash found in and along the river. This year marks the 16th annual Bitterroot River Clean-Up. The Bitter Root Water Forum, a local watershed conservation nonprofit, has hosted it for the last nine years.

Click here to read column.

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Clean water starts with all of us

In Montana, we have a strong sense of place and responsibility to the land.

“Clean Water Starts with Me” is the slogan of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality water quality division. It speaks to the fact that every one of us can take steps to promote clean water and healthy streams in Montana. No matter if you’re a hiker, landowner, rancher, or angler there are actions we can each take to help.

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Summer is on the way

The spring ritual is in full force once again. 


As the snowpack melts and
the river rises, the world around us comes alive. Ranchers have new calves to care for and haying
season is on its way for farmers.  Anglers continue wetting lines in search of trout. Gardens are seeing
signs of life as plants begin to bloom.

Click here to read column.

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Summer streamflows saved by February storms … or were they?

As a hydrologist, I understand the intense interest in water across Montana, and more specifically in the Bitterroot Valley. Water’s relative scarcity, and therefore incredible importance, was one of the reasons I followed a career path into this river-oriented community.

Click here to read column.

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Groundwater in the Bitterroot Valley

It is National Groundwater Awareness Week, March 7-13, so this month we’re diving into the world of groundwater.

Groundwater is defined as water held underground in the soil or in pores and crevices in rock.  An aquifer is the underground layer of water-bearing sediment or permeable rock from which groundwater can be extracted using a water well.

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Roots Against Erosion project planned at Skalkaho Bend

The Bitterroot River is dynamic and its channel moves back and forth across its floodplain. Though channel migration is a natural process, human influence can impact the rate of migration.

Over the past 25 years, the Bitterroot River has been migrating eastward into the area of Skalkaho Bend Park.


The Bitter Root Water Forum is working with the City of Hamilton on a project to address the potential erosional loss of park land at Skalkaho Bend.

Click here to read column.

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Responsibly living near streams

Here in the Bitterroot we are lucky to have the beautiful river and its tributaries running through our valley.

With that abundance of streams crossing our valley, there are thousands of properties in the Bitterroot that are streamside or riverfront.

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Grateful for the Bitterroot

As we enter this holiday season and approach the end of 2020, it is a natural time to reflect upon the events of this passing year.

Not surprisingly, for many of us, 2020 is inextricably linked to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Irrigation is complex — even without delving into water rights — which will be covered in a future Watershed Wellness installment. This month, we’re diving into the irrigation water cycle in the Bitterroot, and where irrigation water comes from.

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Welcome to the first "Watershed Wellness" — a monthly installment from the Bitter Root Water Forum, bringing you the latest on watershed health and wellness, tips for living near streams, and more.

Click here to read column.


Watershed Wellness is funded in part by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, DEQ, and MACD. 

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