The Alpine Watershed Group works to preserve and enhance the natural system functions in Alpine County's watersheds for future generations. The group works by inspiring participation to collaborate, educate, and proactively implement projects that benefit and steward the County's watersheds.
Alpine Watershed Group (AWG) was formed in 2001 as a grassroots effort by community members and other stakeholders in Alpine County. In 2004, the AWG joined the 772 other volunteer monitoring groups in the US in initiating a Citizen Water Quality Monitoring Program. In 2006, the group became a 501(c)(3) organization, and continues to grow and evolve every year. Alpine County is located at the headwaters of five rivers – the Carson, Mokelumne, Stanislaus, Truckee and American– which provide water to Western Nevada and California’s Central Valley. Over the last 150 years, Alpine County watersheds have experienced extensive mining, grazing, timber harvesting and road building. Alpine County is a popular recreation area for thousands of tourists, fishermen, backpackers and other outdoor enthusiasts. Poorly managed recreational use over the years has resulted in water quality degradation impacting the surrounding landscapes and communities extending well into the five watersheds. AWG has been instrumental in serving as a network of watershed planning and communication for Alpine County for over ten years. AWG staff and board members have been actively engaged participants in the county’s ongoing discussion about the water quality and natural resource management.
What is a Watershed Group?
A watershed group is a locally organized, voluntary, non-regulatory group established to assess the condition of the watershed and build a work plan to implement restoration and protections activities within the watershed.
A healthy watershed helps filter sediment and pollutants while supporting the many living organisms that depend on the eco-system. Healthy watersheds improve the economy and help provide resources for everyone to use and enjoy. The Alpine Watershed Group is committed to providing healthy watersheds for future and current generations.
Alpine County Watersheds
Alpine County encompasses the headwaters of 5 different watersheds that flow towards California and Nevada. It is important to protect the integrity of the headwaters to ensure healthy waters in Alpine County and the valleys below.
Carson River Watershed
The Carson River Watershed is located east of the crest of the Sierra Nevada, and encompasses approximately 3,966 square miles in Alpine County, California and Douglas County, Carson City, Lyon County, and Churchill County in Nevada. Of this total, approximately 46 percent of the watershed is within Alpine County. The watershed consists of five hydrographic basins. The southern portion of the Carson Valley hydrographic basin and the headwaters areas for the Carson River are located in Alpine County. The approximate 184-mile length of the river starts at the headwaters areas and continues to its terminus in the Carson Sink. The headwaters areas of the Carson River include two independent tributaries, the East and West Forks. The West Fork begins near Lost Lakes at an elevation of approximately 9,000 feet amsl. The East Fork begins south of Ebbett's Pass, within the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness, at an elevation of approximately 11,460 feet amsl. The two Forks merge about one mile southeast of Genoa, Nevada, and form the main stem of the Carson River. The upper reach of the Carson River continues from the confluent for 11 miles to Mexican Dam. The middle reach of the Carson River starts at Mexican Dam and terminates at Lahontan Reservoir. The lower reach of the Carson River starts at begins at the Lahontan Dam and terminates at the Carson Sink. Average annual streamflow data in cubic feet per second (cfs) for the West Fork of the Carson River at the Woodfords gaging station #10310000 (period of record, 1900-1907; 1938 to 2004) and the East Fork of the Carson River at the Markleeville gaging station #10308200 (period of record, 1960, 2004) are shown in Figures 2-6 and 2-7, respectively. Both gaging stations exhibit peak flows during the spring months, with a rapid decline during the summer months.
Stanislaus River Watershed
The Stanislaus River Watershed encompasses approximately 1,075 square miles, and the 65-mile Stanislaus River is one of the largest tributaries to the San Joaquin River. Of the three forks of the Stanislaus River, only the headwaters areas of the North Fork are located in Alpine County. The North Fork of the Stanislaus River is fed by several creeks including Highland, Beaver and Silver Creek before it joins the Stanislaus River at the New Melones Reservoir. Silver Creek feeds Lake Alpine, which is a tributary to the North Fork of the Stanislaus River. Streamflow data for the North Fork of the Stanislaus River is not available for Alpine County.
Mokelumne River Watershed
The Mokelumne River drains approximately 661 square miles and is one of the largest tributaries to the San Francisco Bay-Delta areas. Headwaters areas for the North Fork of the Mokelumne River include the area south of Ebbetts Pass and Upper and Lower Blue Lakes. Flow data for the North Fork of the Mokelumne River is not available within Alpine County.
American River Watershed
The American River Watershed encompasses approximately 2,100 square miles within Placer, El Dorado, Alpine and Sacramento Counties, and includes the North, Middle, and South Forks of the American River. The South Fork, the only major tributary in Alpine County, drains approximately 804 square miles of watershed, and is approximately 55 miles in length, with elevations ranging from 500 feet near Folsom Reservoir to 10,000 feet near the crest of the Sierra Nevada. Tributary creeks to the South Fork of the American River include Silver Fork, Alder Creek, Weber Creek, Rock Creek and Kirkwood Creek, which drains to Kirkwood Meadow (a tributary to the South Fork). Another tributary includes Caples Creek, which flows into Caples Lake Reservoir. The reservoir is located approximately two miles from the Kirkwood Resort, and serves as a drinking water source and recreational area. Streamflow data for the South Fork of the American River is not available within Alpine County.
Truckee River Watershed
The Upper Truckee River Watershed is located almost entirely in El Dorado County, California, with approximately three square miles of the watershed within Alpine County. The Upper Truckee River begins one mile northwest of Red Lake Peak in Alpine County where it serves as the headwaters for this watershed, north of Highway 88. Streamflow data for the Upper Truckee River is not available within Alpine County.
Alpine County Impaired Water Bodies
Under Section 303(d) of the Federal Clean Water Act, individual states are required to evaluate water quality. Through data analysis, the state develops a list of water bodies with pollution levels that exceed protective water quality standards. This map shows all the 303(d) listed impaired bodies of water in California and Alpine County respectively.
When a water body is listed as an Impaired Water Body, a TMDL is eventually set to limit the amount of pollutant allowed in the water body. TMDL stands for total maximum daily load which describes the maximum amount of a pollutant that the water body can receive and still ensure that it is within the water quality standards.
To interact with the Alpine County impaired water bodies map, follow this link.
Here is a list of of all the impaired water bodies and why, here.