Water Can’t Wait

By Lori Grant, Water Program Director

Whether it’s Idaho, Nevada, or Oregon, states across the West are all having the same conversation about water: our rivers and aquifers are over appropriated, which is to say that more water has been promised to people, agriculture and ecosystems than nature can continue to provide.

Even as we experience one of the wettest winters in a decade, the future of Oregon’s water resources is uncertain. Across the state, wells and streams are already going dry seasonally, and according to a recent report from OSU’s Oregon Climate Change Research Institute, diminishing water supply and increased demand are expected to strain the ability of existing infrastructure and operations to meet all the varied water needs in the state.

Even the Willamette Valley is not immune: The Oregon Climate Assessment Report called attention to summer water scarcity as a growing concern for the most densely populated region of the state. And a report on California’s extended drought showed that water shortages disproportionately affect already disadvantaged communities, including low-income households, people of color, and communities already burdened with environmental pollution.

Water scarcity affects everyone, including growing communities, fishermen, farmers, Native peoples, manufacturers, and all Oregonians who love our rivers, salmon and steelhead runs, and who depend on our natural resources. Oregon’s economy and way of life depend on a clean and reliable source of water, but drought has left Oregonians vulnerable. We can’t afford to wait until water scarcity is the norm to address these challenges.

This legislative session, you will hear about our water budget, water rights and expectations of water users, but the bottom line is that the state must find a way to pay for the ongoing management of our water supplies and to fill critical gaps in our knowledge of how much water we have and how quickly it is being consumed. Without this basic information, it’s impossible for communities on the ground to reliably and responsibly plan for the seasons ahead.

It is our civic duty to take responsibility for the integrity of our water supply and protect the land we call home. That’s why OEC is working collaboratively with partners from across the state to address the problem before it becomes a crisis, and reliably and responsibly plan for the changing seasons ahead.

Learn more about smart water management policies being explored this session here, and sign up for our G.A.I.N. list to take action when the time comes to raise your voice on this issue.

Image credit: Great Basin region of Oregon photo courtesy BLM, aquifers under extreme pumping stress graphic courtesy The Oregonian Draining Oregon series


3 Replies to "Water Can’t Wait"

  • LaVerne Landauer
    February 24, 2017 (8:53 pm)

    The Washington County Democrats Platform Committee has a resolution in process regarding ground water usage and monitoring. The first reading was on Feb. 22, 2017 and will have a second reading and vote on March 22, 2017. I started working on this last fall after the series on water usage in Oregon ran in the Oregonian. Representative Ken Helm (D-Washington County) has three house bills (HB2705, HB2706 and HB2707) regarding this subject (as mentioned in the resolution). This important issue must be resolved as soon as possible and this is just a start. A copy of the resolution is on the front page of the Washcodems.org website under “February CC Meeting” and then “File, Resolution Re: Surface and Ground Water Usage in Oregon – 1st Reading.”

    • Stacey Malstrom
      February 27, 2017 (4:56 pm)

      Hi LaVerne, OEC also supports Rep. Helm’s bills, and smart water management is a key priority this session for all of the reasons outlined above. Thank you for your support in bringing these issues forward in Washington County. You can learn more about the bills and our entire legislative agenda on our policy page here: http://oeconline.org/our-work/policy.

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