Clean & Plentiful Water
Restoring a legacy of clean rivers in Oregon.
Why we care
OEC believes that all Oregonians should be free to swim, boat and fish in our rivers – and to eat what they catch – without being concerned about their health. Despite Oregon’s green reputation, our rivers have some serious problems.
- Water in most Oregon rivers is already fully appropriated for human uses in summer and fall, leaving little water in-stream for fish and recreation.
- Resident fish in the Willamette and Columbia Rivers are so contaminated with PCBs and mercury that it is not safe to eat them.
- Every major river in Oregon violates water quality standards.
Today, most of the pollution in Oregon’s rivers comes from urban and agricultural runoff. That means we all must be part of the solution. Read the Clean & Plentiful Water Fact Sheet [PDF].
What we do
Smart state policy
Oregon needs a balanced approach to managing our valuable water resources. OEC works with water users and other conservation groups to find common ground on proposals that benefit Oregon's environment and economy. We work to promote good public policies that protect clean and plentiful water for people and wildlife. Get the latest on OEC's work in the state legislature.
Find out which watershed you live in and do your part to protect it. Our day to day choices have a direct impact on water quality. Check out our Love Your River tips.
When rain falls onto streets, parking lots, rooftops and lawns, it picks up pollutants such as oil and grease, sediment, pesticides and fertilizers, bacteria and heavy metals. When that runoff enters a stormdrain, it usually ends up in local streams along with all the pollutants it carries. The two key steps to reducing the impacts of urban runoff are preventing pollution from getting into stormwater in the first place and improving the way Oregon’s cities and towns manage stormwater.
OEC is working to help Oregon towns and cities update their stormwater infrastructure to treat, infiltrate, and/or capture stormwater instead of letting it become runoff. We are organizing workshops around the state on water-quality friendly development practices, ensuring that DEQ’s stormwater permits protect Oregon’s rivers, advocating for a state transportation system that includes measures to offset the water quality impacts of roads, and implementing additional recommendations from the Stormwater Solutions Team we convened in 2007.
Global warming is beginning to place further stress on Oregon’s limited water supplies, which is sparking interest in new water storage projects. OEC is working to make water conservation and efficiency a focal point of state water supply policies. We believe it’s smarter, better for the environment, and more cost-effective to invest in conservation first.
OEC talked with growers and irrigation experts about ways to advance water efficiency in agriculture--which uses 80% of the state's water withdrawals--while strengthening Oregon's agriculture sector. Our recommendations are included in a report called "Making Water Work." Two thirds of our recommendations are included in the state's Integrated Water Resources Strategy.
OEC is beginning a project to protect groundwater by reducing pollution from fertilizer runoff, septic tanks, and other primary sources. 70% of Oregonians and 90% of rural Oregonians rely on groundwater as their drinking water source. Thousands of Oregonians are currently drinking water that is contaminated with nitrates and other pollutants, and Oregon's groundwater protection programs have been neglected in the last decade.
OEC helps ranchers and farmers reduce agriculture’s impact on our rivers through our Healthy Food and Farms program. We’re working to make sure the state’s agricultural water quality program, known as Senate Bill 1010, works as well as it should, and we secured state funding for Pesticide Stewardship Partnerships.
There is growing evidence that chemicals we use every day, such as pharmaceuticals and personal care products, are ending up in our rivers. OEC participated in a Drug Take Back task force to develop a safe way to dispose of unwanted pharmaceuticals instead of flushing them down the toilet. In addition, our Kids and Health program helps keep toxic chemicals out of our rivers by reducing their use and replacing them with safer alternatives.
How you can get involved
- Take the Love Your River challenge
- Attend a Stormwater Solutions workshop