News & Announcements

March 5 – 11 is Groundwater Awareness Week!

We here at the Gallatin LWQD are aware of the importance of groundwater to residents of Gallatin County and across Montana. Groundwater provides drinking water for humans, hydrates our animal friends out there on the arid landscape, keeps our crops fresh and green and keeps streams cool during the hot summer months.

In 1910, Theodore Roosevelt said, “Civilized people should be able to dispose of sewage in a better way than by putting it in the drinking water.” In Gallatin County, there are approximately 20,000 permitted septic systems that discharge wastewater to our aquifer (click on link or see map, below).

Many of these systems were permitted in the 1970s and 1980s and their capabilities to adequately treat wastewater beyond the recommended 30-year lifespan. Additionally, many of these outdated systems are in neighborhoods throughout the County and City of Bozeman that are located along small creeks and streams. Work performed by the Gallatin LWQD has examined the role of human influence from septic systems on water chemistry in some of these streams and we will continue to characterize nutrient inputs and the presence of bacterial pathogens throughout the year as part of our monitoring networks.

The single most important thing you as a resident of Gallatin County can do to protect our groundwater is to do your part to prevent non-point source pollution by having your septic system pumped every 3 – 5 years. This regular maintenance is necessary to ensure adequate performance and prevent pollution of our drinking water aquifer resource by things like nitrate, a plant-available form of nitrogen that leads to algal blooms and contamination by E. coli bacteria, a human-health risk.

Groundwater is an extremely important part of life around the globe and here in Montana. Approximately 50% of global drinking water comes from groundwater and over half of Montana’s public drinking water is made up from groundwater. While seeing the changes in groundwater is difficult its importance is immeasurable for individuals and our ecosystem as a whole.

Join us at the State Capitol Rotunda on Friday, March 10th, for Water Quality Awareness Day where you can meet some of the many organizations that are working to keep Montana waters clean and enjoyable.

Local Water Quality District Board Meeting, March 2, 2023

Our next Board of Directors meeting will be held Thursday March 2, 2023 at 8:15 am in the Community Room, located on the third floor of the Gallatin County Courthouse, 311 W. Main St., downtown Bozeman, MT.

The public is welcome to attend, however, public participation is limited to the comment period at the beginning of the meeting. Meeting agendas and materials will be available via AV Capture All (Gallatin County live-streaming) 48 hours prior to the meeting.

Local Water Quality District Board Meeting, February 2, 2023

Our next Board of Directors meeting will be held Thursday February 2, 2023 at 8:15 am in the Community Room, located on the third floor of the Gallatin County Courthouse, 311 W. Main St., downtown Bozeman, MT.

The public is welcome to attend, however, public participation is limited to the comment period at the beginning of the meeting. Meeting agendas and materials will be available via AV Capture All (Gallatin County live-streaming) 48 hours prior to the meeting.

Seasons’ Greetings from the Local Water Quality District

It’s that magical time of year again when…snow falls in the mountains and makes its way to recharge zones of the Gallatin Valley aquifer. For most folks outside of the City of Bozeman, this means a steady supply of sand and gravel-filtered drinking water in their homes from their backyard well. This Holiday Season, give the gift of knowing what’s in your loved one’s drinking water well by having their well water tested at a State of Montana certified laboratory.

While the water in the Gallatin Valley aquifer is generally of very good quality, there are still some areas of concern for owners of private domestic wells. For example, did you know that there is naturally occurring arsenic in parts of the Gallatin Valley? Geologic formations associated with ancient and modern Yellowstone volcanic and geothermal features are the source of this arsenic. In fact, water in the mainstem Missouri River exceeds the US Environmental Protection Agency’s maximum contaminant level all the way to Great Falls, Montana.

While elevated arsenic is generally not a valley-wide problem, owners of domestic drinking water wells in the Gallatin and in surrounding communities should have their wells tested annually for things that can occur in groundwater and may impact human health like arsenic, lead, nitrate, and E. Coli bacteria.

This Holiday Season, stop by the Local Water Quality District office and pick up a free well-test kit. Staff can provide guidance on what to test for and interpretation of your results. While the kits are available at no cost, the price of analysis depends on what test is desired and is covered by the well owner.

Local Water Quality District Board Meeting 12/1/2022

Our next Board of Directors meeting will be held Thursday December 1st, 2022 at 8:15 am in the Community Room, located on the third floor of the Gallatin County courthouse, 311 W. Main St., downtown Bozeman, MT.

The public is welcome to attend. To access the digital agenda and stream the meeting via AV Capture All (Gallatin County live-streaming), please follow the link below. For access via Zoom, please contact the district at (406) 582-3145.

Digital Agenda and livestream AV Capture All Link:


Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances, known as PFAS for short, are widely used and long lasting chemicals that break down very slowly. PFAS can be found in a variety of consumer, commercial, and industrial products, including food products, and in the environment. PFAS are also found in the blood of people and animals worldwide, and scientific studies have shown that exposure to some PFAS may be linked to harmful health effects.

The State of Montana recognized PFAS as emerging contaminants of concern and implemented the
Montana PFAS Action Plan in June of 2020, and began monitoring to determine the prevalence and magnitude of PFAS contamination in surface water in at-risk areas of Montana in 2021.

A new report provides results from water these quality monitoring efforts and discusses next steps.

A Fact Sheet summarizing results from the Bozeman area can be found HERE.


Cyanobacteria, also known as blue green algae, occur naturally in many on Montana’s freshwater systems. Harmful algal blooms (HABs) happen when these organisms grow rapidly, typically when nutrients are abundant and calm water is warmed by a long, hot growing season.

HABs can produce toxins that can cause skin irritation and illness in humans, pets, and livestock. In extreme cases, these toxins can even be lethal if ingested.

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Public Health and Human Services HAB website includes resources for heading out on the water safely. You can:

  • educate yourself on HABs: where to look & what to look for when you’re out on the water
  • submit reports of suspected HABs – state or local health agencies will follow up
  • review suspected HABs reported by others, including any associated health advisories or monitoring

Last year in Gallatin County, HABs were reported and confirmed on Hebgen and Hyalite Reservoirs. If you suspect a HAB-related illness in a person or animal, call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222.


Due to the recent flooding events in Gallatin and surrounding counties, residents who rely on a private well for water are strongly encouraged to test their well water for the presence of bacteria.

Wells in flood-impacted areas may be especially prone to contamination from bacteria as rising groundwater levels may interact with nearby septic systems.

Anytime a well has been inundated or the well user suspects contamination due to flood waters, they should follow several important steps to ensure that well water is safe for drinking and general use:

  1. Pick up well-water test kit from the GLWQD office
  2. Follow the instructions to collect a sample from your well water or from a home faucet
  3. Submit the samples to a state-certified laboratory for Bacteria testing (Total Coliform/E Coli.)
  4. If the well water sample comes up positive for E. Coli, follow well disinfection procedures, per the MSU Extension Water Quality office guidelines.
  5. As the effect of floods on well water can persist for months, follow up with routine testing to ensure your well water is safe for consumption.

The City-County Health Department has provided a few quick links to important topics, such as how to inspect your well and septic systems post-flood. Please click here or on the the link below the following image to be redirected to the guidance documents provided by the Health Department.

For more information on well-testing, please call the Local Water Quality District at (406) 582-3167 or the Gallatin City-County Health Department at (406) 582-3121.

For more information on flooding in Gallatin County, please visit the Gallatin County Emergency Management website:


Kate Fry from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality delivered an update on the Bozeman Solvent Site State Superfund Remediation at GLWQD’s board meeting on Thursday, May 5th, 2022. A link to the slide presentation can be found HERE.

An audio recording of the meeting can be found HERE. Search ‘LWQD’ and choose the 05/05/2022 meeting on the Past Meetings tab.


As part of the Surface Water Monitoring Network program, GLWQD develops regular Watershed Health Summaries that present surface water data from the Lower Gallatin Watershed in a non-technical format for all District residents.

To view the 2021 Watershed Health Summary, click HERE.


The Gallatin Stream Teams volunteer monitoring program was recently featured in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. This recognition is well-deserved, as Stream Teams volunteers are an invaluable component of GLWQD’s data collection efforts for the Surface Water Monitoring Network program. To read the story, click HERE.


The Gallatin Local Water Quality District has published the 2020 Gallatin State of the Waters Report. This report is produced every five years to update District citizens on GLWQD’s recent work, and to highlight important findings. Hard copies of the Report are available at the GLWQD office. To view an electronic copy, click HERE.


The Montana Department of Environmental Quality and the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services have developed health-based guidance values for manganese in drinking water. Information on the health effects of manganese is an evolving science, and Montana is using a guidance value approach to help Montana families take voluntary steps to ensure that their drinking water is safe.

Because they are guidance values, there are no new or additional regulatory requirements for homeowners or public water systems, but District residents who use private wells as a drinking water source are encouraged to include manganese in their next recommended annual water quality screening. A DEQ/DPHHS factsheet can be found HERE. An associated derivation document is also available.


A Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology (MBMG) Groundwater Investigation Program (GWIP) study is underway in the Upper Gallatin canyon area of Big Sky. To learn more about this study, take a look at the project fact sheet.


This video, put together by Montana State University Extension Water Quality is a great resource for homeowners new to using a well and septic, or a great refresher for anyone. Check it out here: