Responsible Water Management for the Next Century
Responsible management of Oregon’s water resources is one of the states most pressing environmental and economic challenges. Eighteen out of nineteen of Oregon’s river basins are over appropriated from the late spring to the early fall. At the same time, population growth and climate change are increasing the pressure on Oregon’s waterways and aquifers. Unfortunately, the state is also facing tough economic times. However, despite the challenging economic and budgetary climate, Oregon must invest in responsible water management if the state is to move forward. Accordingly, over the next session the Legislature should be urged to act on the following:
Protect winter flows needed for fish and rivers: Oregon is preparing to allocate the last block of unclaimed water – winter and wet season water. Before the state appropriates this water for new storage and other projects, Oregon must understand the importance of higher wet season flows for fish and rivers and then protect the ecosystem services and ecological functions of those flows. Our proposal would require Oregon to evaluate and protect as necessary, peak and ecological flows needed for fish health and river maintenance when evaluating new storage projects or allocating wet season water.
Implement eligibility standards for the use of public funds to support water projects: In Oregon, all water from all sources belongs to the public. Before Oregonians spend public funds in the form of grants or loans on new water projects, existing water supplies must be managed responsibly. Responsible water management includes ensuring that basic water conservation, efficiency and management measures are pursued where feasible. This concept would make new projects eligible for public monies after water developers first take basic steps to ensure responsible management of existing water supplies.
Measure water use: Water is a limited resource. Water demand, growth and the effects of climate change emphasize the need for responsible water management. Water use measurement and reporting is the cornerstone of responsible water management. In a nutshell, what gets measured gets managed. The Water Resources Commission recognized the importance of measurement and reporting in its approved Strategic Water Management Plan. Our common sense proposal builds upon and implements the Commission’s Plan. Under this concept, we would see significant gains in water measurement.
Ensure adequate funding of the Oregon Water Resources Department: The Department is understaffed for the essential jobs it must perform and already operates with substantially reduced capacity in key areas under the damaging effects of multiple budget cuts during the 1990s and earlier in this decade. While we recognize the need for fiscal restraint in this climate, Oregon needs basic water management capacity to address the challenges presented by the intersection of climate change, economic and population growth and the needs of aquatic habitat and aquatic species. All interests lose when the Department lacks the capacity to perform basic functions. The Legislature must adequately fund the Department and not cut existing functions essential to the proper management of Oregon’s waters.
David Moskowitz, Confluence Consulting, 971-235-8953, dmosk (at) confluenceconsultingnw (dot) com
John DeVoe or Kimberley Priestley, john (at) waterwatch (dot) org, kjp (at) waterwatch (dot) org