The Oregonian - Report says Oregon needs coordinated water-management plan

January 27, 2023
The Oregonian - Report says Oregon needs coordinated water-management plan

Communities across the state cannot access reliable clean water

Communities across Oregon cannot access reliable clean water, and the state doesn’t have a coordinated plan to address the problem, according to an advisory report from Secretary of State Shemia Fagan.

The report released Thursday outlines broad challenges with water management. It says Oregon lacks a statewide water plan to address water security issues and doesn’t have a coherent funding strategy for its aging water infrastructure.

Water agencies and state leaders lack shared water security priorities and the capacity to coordinate statewide planning. The state also lacks the necessary data to support regional water planning, according to the report from the Oregon Audits Division.“What’s shocking about this report is that it shows that there’s no plan to address the problem,” Fagan said.

Already, many Oregonians experience water access issues — including those in the Lower Umatilla Basin, where nitrate pollution has affected drinking water for decades. Industrial and agricultural pollution increase water temperatures and degrade water quality. And the over-allocation of surface and groundwater, combined with intensifying droughts, reduces water flow to streams and rivers and dries up residential wells as farms and homes compete for water.Climate change, growing populations and aging water infrastructure will only exacerbate those problems, the report said.

Another challenge is that community input isn’t considered in water decisions — many residents are unaware there’s a problem with their water, according to the report.

And Oregon’s federally recognized tribes face significant challenges with water access stemming from environmentally destructive industrial and agricultural practices, the report said.

The report offers a plan to address water management, focused on developing a statewide water governance model, broadening community engagement and improving data collection, among other steps. It does not address enforcement and other challenges at the 11 agencies that manage water on many fronts: including for human consumption, irrigated agriculture and fish and wildlife.

“We need a damn water plan,” Fagan said. “Far too many families lack access to clean water today. And many communities in Oregon are at high risk of becoming water insecure in the very near future. This is a crisis. Water demands urgent action.”-Gosia Wozniacka

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An aerial view of a body of water.