Editorial: One of the best bills that died was about water rights

June 11, 2023
Editorial: One of the best bills that died was about water rights

Oregon should start treating water like the precious resource it is. And some people are not going to like the changes.

We can’t say we blame them if an open canal in a backyard gets piped or a business can’t get a water permit because water rights are already oversubscribed. But Oregon must change or end up like a state-sized version of Phoenix. Development there is dying of thirst. More about that here: tinyurl.com/Phoenixdry.

One of the biggest changes proposed in the Legislature this session was a pause on new water rights in each basin in Oregon until the Oregon Water Resources Department figured out what was going on with the water in that basin. All the surface water in most of Oregon is divided up. Groundwater is drying up. There are excellent series from The Oregonian and OPB on the many problems. The proposed pause in House Bill 3368 was put on pause itself. It effectively died. It was controversial. And the Republican boycott in the Senate has put an enforced pause on many, many bills from becoming law.

But we’d say this failed bill from Reps. Mark Owens, R-Crane, and Ken Helm, D-Beaverton, was one the best bills of the session. It forced conversations that need to occur about Oregon’s water future.

We hope it’s a zombie bill and comes back to haunt legislators again and again until more is done.

There’s some excellent coverage of this bill in The Capital Press, here, tinyurl.com/waterrightsbill.

Share this post