SCIT Water Quality Program

What about the water?

The SCIT Water Program monitors and assesses the health of Tribal waters including rivers, streams and lakes. Monitoring surface water is essential to understanding any potential risks to public health as well as protecting the waters from environmental degradation. The Monitoring Team samples year-round on a rotational basin approach. Each year the team monitors a number of fixed stations (which remain the same each year) and a number of rotating stations (which change each year) to give us a comprehensive outlook on the health of the watershed. The fixed stations are located on the Chippewa River and a couple of its tributaries. The rotating stations have a focus each year. These include the Coldwater River, the North and Main Branch of the Chippewa River, and the North and South Branches of the Salt River. In Arenac County the Water Program monitors the Saganing River which empties out in the Saginaw Bay.

The Chippewa River

The Chippewa River is scenic, beautiful, and enjoyed by many residents, students and visitors. During the summer you often see fishermen, kayakers, canoers, tubers, and swimmers in the river. In Isabella County, the Chippewa River is fairly clean above the confluence of the North Branch of the Chippewa River. After the confluence of the North Branch the Main Branch takes additional sediment, pathogens, and nutrients. This is because portions of the North Branch are contaminated and consistently exceed State of Michigan Water Quality Standards.

One issue that proves to be particularly problematic is the high E.coli concentrations. E.coli is bacteria that lives in the gut of humans and animals and is an indicator of fecal contamination. Fecal contamination contains harmful pathogens that can cause illness and disease in humans. There are times when the E.coli concentrations in the Chippewa River exceed the State of Michigan threshold for E.coli, posing a public health concern. The exceedances typically occur downstream (east) of the confluence with the North Branch of the Chippewa River. Currently the State of Michigan and local government agencies are working towards addressing the E.coli issue in the Chippewa River with the support of the SCIT.


  • E. coli Sampling & Testing
  • Michigan Wild Rice Initiative
  • Streambank restoration