Source Water Protection

Twin LakesThe City of Sheridan and the Sheridan Area Water Supply Joint Powers Board (SAWSJPB) provide clean, safe, reliable drinking water for more than 20,000 residents in the Sheridan area. This water comes from the Upper Big Goose Creek Watershed, which is the area of land that collects water into Big Goose Creek above the mouth of Big Goose Canyon. The activities and natural processes that occur within this area have a significant impact on the quality of raw water that will be utilized for drinking water supply. While the raw water taken from the creek is treated before it ever reaches the homes and businesses of the Sheridan area, the amount and cost of treatment are significantly impacted by the quality of the raw water.

What is a watershed?
A watershed, also known as a drainage basin or catchment, is an area of land where all water drains to a central point like a lake, river, or stream. The 76,800 acres above the Intake Facility, which is the City’s point of diversion on the creek, is the upper most region of the larger Big Goose Creek Watershed. Approximately 5% of this “sub-watershed” is private land, the rest is National Forest.
Upper Big Goose MapWhat is Source Water Protection?

Source water protection is a planning process that utilities use to help prevent contamination of drinking water supplies.  Surface water supplies in particular can be susceptible to a number of different types of contamination.  Recreational, residential and agricultural activities can all impact water quality.  Human and livestock waste can come into contact with run-off from snow and rain.  Any activities that disturb vegetation and destabilize soil can impact the amount of sediment and other pollutants that reach ambient water sources.  Improper storage of fuels and other chemicals can also be a hazard to water supplies.

Watershed protection is an effort to address potential pollutants before they reach the creek.  Addressing the water quality on a watershed basis offers very real cost savings at the treatment facilities.  As it is said, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.  Water treatment cost savings come in the amount of chemicals required to treat the raw water as well as man-hours, power consumption and the reduced potential need for expensive facility upgrades.  There are a number of other benefits that can be realized when you consider the number of beneficial uses that Big Goose Creek provides, including: fish habitat, irrigation, livestock watering, and improved water quality of a creek that runs right through our community.  Natural processes can also threaten source water supplies in the form of landslides, wildfire, flooding, drought, and algae blooms.

In 2015 the City of Sheridan hired an engineering firm (Vela Environmental) to design a Watershed Control Program Plan (AKA…Upper Big Goose Creek Watershed Management Plan), which provides the framework for implementing source water protection activities into the future.  This document identifies the source watershed area, the potential challenges in the watershed (namely Cryptosporidium), a watershed sampling plan and a prioritized list of action items to guide implementation. 

You can view the Upper Big Goose Creek Watershed Management Plan at the link below and you can request a copy of the annual Watershed Control Program progress report to EPA by e-mailing Tom Manolis ([email protected]) or by calling the Sheridan Water Treatment Plant at (307)674-8532.

Upper Big Goose Creek Watershed Management Plan

What are we doing?


The primary partners involved in implementation of the Watershed Control Program Plan are the USDA Forest Service, Sheridan County Conservation District, Sheridan County (SAWS JPB), and the City of Sheridan. 

The USFS is the agency responsible for land management for the majority of the watershed.  The Forest Service enforces regulations and monitors activities in an area that is abundant with recreators, seasonal residents, and livestock grazing.  Every 5 years the Forest Service conducts visitor use surveys (see link below) in the Bighorn National Forest and the results from those surveys are helping to direct implementation activities for watershed control. 

USDA Visitor Use

The Sheridan County Conservation District provides important technical and financial assistance with conservation programs throughout the county. SCCD also performs water quality monitoring on Big Goose Creek and was involved in development of a TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load) on the Goose Creek Watershed in 2010. This TMDL (see link below) can help provide funding and direction for implementation projects for the Watershed Control Program.

Goose Creek Watershed TMDLs

The Sheridan Area Water Supply Joint Powers Board is responsible for the rural water system surrounding the City of Sheridan. SAWS JPB maintains records, does futures planning, and coordinates with the City of Sheridan for billing and maintenance of the water system. Recently SAWS JPB, in partnership with the State of Wyoming, hired a consultant to perform a Wildfire Hazard Mitigation Assessment for the Upper Big Goose Creek Watershed. This assessment will help to identify forest management treatments to minimize impacts to the watershed in the event of a forest fire.
Wildfire Brochure
The City of Sheridan’s Water Supply and Treatment Division is charged with ensuring that quality drinking water is available to Sheridan citizens at all times. The Water Treatment Division operates the Sheridan Water Treatment Plant, Big Goose Water Treatment Plant, and the Intake Facility. The treatment plants draw water from Big Goose Creek and supplement supply from Twin Lakes, Dome Lake, and Park Reservoir during peak use times.

Water Sampling
The City of Sheridan has been sampling raw water at the Intake Facility for bacteria and Cryptosporidium monthly since 2004. Raw water turbidity, which can be used as an indicator of water quality, is monitored continuously at the Intake as well. The City has been collecting data for dissolved oxygen, pH, temperature, color and alkalinity at 3 locations in the watershed since 2008. The Watershed Control Program Plan calls for sampling of bacteria and Cryptosporidium at 3 additional sites within the watershed, 3 times each between the months of June and October. If Cryptosporidium is found to be present, it has been arranged to send the sample(s) to the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene for genotyping to help determine the source.

Creating Awareness
We are posting signs throughout the watershed to help remind people that they are in an area that provides water for a large population.
Big Goose Watershed

In the near future we will be providing brochures to area lodging and campgrounds to help inform watershed users of watershed conservation efforts and where our water comes from. SCCD also provides outreach and education to help create watershed pollution awareness to primary and secondary students in the area through multiple avenues.

How can you help?
For those that own property and/or live within the watershed, it is good to remember that everything that rain comes into contact with could potentially contaminate the creek. Sub-surface contamination can be a concern as well, especially when in close proximity (within 300 ft.) to a creek or other water source. Human waste can find its way into the creek from vault toilets and septic systems if they are not properly inspected and maintained (please see the SCCD septic self-assessment at the link below).

Septic System Self-Assessment & Program Eligibility

Recreational activity can also have an impact on the watershed if Forest Service rules and regulations are not followed. When recreating in the National Forest please “Tread Lightly”. For more information on how to tread lightly, please visit the web page below and select your activity from the “Quick Tips” at the bottom of the page. Also, please note where bathroom facilities may be available when recreating near water sources.

In the event that you witness a chemical spill, dumping of waste or see suspicious activity please contact the USFS, the City of Sheridan, or the Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office at the numbers below.

USFS: (307)674-2600
City of Sheridan: (307)674-8532
Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office: (307)672-3455

Contact Us
  • Monday - Friday / 7:00 A.M. - 3:30 P.M.
  • 6 Soldier Creek Rd.Sheridan, WY 82801
  • P: (307) 674-7906F: (307) 672-5241