Soil, Water, and Air Program

The Soil, Water and Air (SWA) Program in Alaska supports the BLM’s multiple-use mission, while protecting and restoring the physical natural resources that maintain healthy watersheds.  

The majority of program work supports water-related activities such as monitoring water quality and quantity, instream flow studies, climate and snowpack monitoring, cooperative watershed projects, and protecting/restoring water quality and water habitats. 

Soil surveys and projects related to impacts from off-highway-vehicle (OHV) use are conducted in certain areas as needed. The program provides basic coordination for air issues, and site specific air quality studies are conducted as they relate to smoke from wildfire.

How large is the program?

Field work in Alaska is challenging and expensive due to weather and the remote and scattered nature of BLM-managed public lands. The BLM manages approximately 85 million acres of surface land, or about one-fifth of the State of Alaska. These lands contain approximately 96,000 miles of perennial streams, 2.6 million lake surface acres, and innumerable wetland areas (approximately 45% of Alaska is classified as wetlands). The BLM manages more water bodies in Alaska than in the rest of the Lower 48 combined. In addition, the BLM manages almost 240 million acres of subsurface mineral estate in Alaska.

What are we aiming for?

The BLM sustains the health, diversity and productivity of the public lands, for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. The people of the Soil, Water and Air Program in Alaska strive to support the BLM’s multiple-use mission while working to protect, maintain and restore physical natural resources through watershed-based ecosystem management.

Why do we do this? 

The primary function of the program is to collect and analyze information on soil, water and air resources and provide direction necessary for:
• Compliance with laws, regulations and policies
• Mineral and energy development
• Land-use planning
• Fire management
• Monitoring the effectiveness of management actions
• Instream flow and other water rights applications
• Stream and watershed enhancement projects
• Protection of water quality and water habitats
• Climate change analysis
• Management of fish and wildlife resources for subsistence use 
• Recreation management including OHV impacts

Related Links

Abandoned Mines Land

Interagency Hydrology Committee for Alaska

USFS Stream Systems Technology Center

USFWS Alaska Water Resources

USGS Alaska

NWS Alaska-Pacific River Forecast Center

ARCADIAN – Current Streamflow Conditions in Alaska

University of Alaska-Fairbanks – Water and Environmental Research Center 

Natural Resources Conservation Service – Alaska Snow, Water and Climate Services

Alaska Ocean Observing System (AOOS) - Data Catalog Explorer


Hydrologist in the White Mountains Recreation Area conducting a snow survey
A snow survey in the White Mountains
National Recreation Area.
Eastern Interior Field Office,
Fairbanks District, March 2005.


Hydrologist measuring streamflow on the Fortymile Wild & Scenic River from the Taylor Highway Bridge
Measuring streamflow on the Fortymile 
Wild & Scenic River from the Taylor Highway
Bridge. Eastern Interior Field Office, 2004.

Stream gage and climate station on Fish Creek, National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska
Stream gage and climate station on Fish
Creek, National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska
Arctic Field Office, 2004.

Cold hydrologist making an under-ice stream flow measurement.
Under-ice stream flow measurement on the
Jim River. Central Yukon Field Office, 2004.