A Win For Families, Farms, Fish, and the Future

The passage of the bipartisan Drought Package during Oregon’s 2023 Legislative Session marks a pivotal moment in the state’s efforts to combat a looming water crisis. By prioritizing safe drinking water, investing in water infrastructure, promoting efficient agricultural practices, and protecting water sources, Oregon is taking bold strides toward a water-secure future.

A Critical Time for Action

Water is an essential life force for Oregon’s communities, farms, and ecosystems. It is our collective responsibility to protect it for all—managing our water resources not just for today but for the future by investing in thriving farmlands, affordable and plentiful drinking water, and a sustainable natural resource economy across rural Oregon. Yet in rural parts of the state, many Oregonians are facing the impacts of climate-related water scarcity, and communities are getting by with water infrastructure weakened by age and wildfires or contaminated drinking water wells. 

The 2023 Drought Package

At the end of the 2023 Legislative Session, Oregon lawmakers passed a wide-ranging bipartisan Drought Package that combines several bills and includes targeted funding for state agencies. Because of the Drought Package, Oregon will invest more than $174M in critical water policies and projects. The funding guaranteed in this drought response package will ensure critical economic development in rural Oregon needed to safeguard against drought and help farmers and working families in all corners of our state.

In addition, this funding will help the 12 agencies that manage, monitor, and protect Oregon’s water work together more effectively to help implement Oregon’s Integrated Water Resources Strategy (developed in 2017) and prevent a looming water crisis

Ways the Drought Package will benefit Oregon:

  • Ensure Safe Drinking Water for Rural Communities. Access to safe drinking water is a basic human right. With the Drought Package, rural well water users will finally receive assistance to test their drinking water for contaminants. Furthermore, the provision for in-home remediation offers hope to those dealing with contaminated drinking water, ensuring they have access to clean and safe water for their families.
  • Upgrade Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure. Small, rural, and underserved communities often bear the brunt of inadequate infrastructure. However, with the Drought Package’s emphasis on improving drinking water and wastewater systems, these communities can look forward to enhanced access to clean water and better sanitation facilities. This investment promises to bolster public health, social well-being, and overall quality of life for countless Oregonians.
  • Advance Agricultural Irrigation Efficiencies. Oregon’s agriculture sector, the backbone of our state’s economy, relies on water resources. The Drought Package’s commitment to implementing and improving agricultural irrigation efficiencies will have far-reaching impacts. Not only will this enhance the sustainability of agricultural practices, but it will also conserve water, mitigate drought-related losses, and promote responsible water usage across the state.
  • Safeguard Drinking Water Sources. Preserving the sources of Oregon’s drinking water is essential to water quality and quantity. The Drought Package dedicates resources to protect these vital water sources from pollution and overexploitation. 
  • Strengthen Protections. The Drought Package will increase existing protections and provide funding for protecting Oregon’s groundwater and surface water supplies.
  • Support Regional Water Planning Efforts. Water challenges are complex and require localized solutions. The Drought Package recognizes this fact by providing support for regional place-based water planning efforts across Oregon. This collaborative approach will enable tailored strategies that address specific water needs in different regions.

Climate and Water: Interconnected Investments, Shared Solutions

Water is intrinsically linked to climate. Climate-fueled wildfires, drought, and extreme temperatures are already depleting Oregon’s water supply, destroying farm and forestlands, and devastating lives and livelihoods across the state. In the 2023 legislative session, lawmakers passed an expansive Climate Resilience Package which will leverage unprecedented federal investments through the Inflation Reduction Act to advance climate-smart land management practices on Oregon’s natural and working lands. By investing $10 million in a new state “Natural and Working Lands Fund,” this package could leverage up to 10 times that in federal funding to support Oregon farmers, ranchers, and forestland owners in implementing natural climate solutions. These simple, proven solutions will both reduce the future impacts of climate change through increased carbon sequestration, while also improving water quality, preventing runoff, protecting wetlands and streams, and bolstering our state’s drought resilience.

OEC’s work to protect and conserve Oregon’s water is made possible through the support of people across the state. 

Make a difference and become a member of OEC today.

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