Ask Governor Brown to Close the “Stockwatering” Loophole in Oregon’s Water Laws
Lost Valley Farm, Photo credit: Brian Posewitz
Oregon’s water laws allow for certain “exempt” uses of water that do not require a permit. These exempt uses are typically smaller in nature – for example, for rural residences or gardens (15,000 gallons of water per day and ½ acre) and do not require a water right because the use is not considered to need a full permitting process and agency review.
As recently described in the Salem Statesman Journal, Lost Valley Farm, the new mega-dairy in Eastern Oregon, has been using the “stockwatering” exemption in Oregon’s water laws, which has no limit as to the amount of water or number of animals, to provide drinking water to a highly concentrated herd of more than 10,000 dairy cows, with a plan to eventually have as many as 30,000 cows on that property. That could take about a million gallons of water per day from an already compromised aquifer in the Umatilla Basin.
Lost Valley claimed the stockwatering exemption after WaterWatch and others, including a neighboring dairy, challenged Lost Valley’s attempts to get groundwater through transfer of another dairy’s rights and new short-term permits to use groundwater while the transfer application is pending. We challenged those attempts because of the impacts we think they will have on the aquifer and existing water users. New long-term groundwater permits are nearly impossible to get in that area because it is designated a Critical Groundwater Area due to falling water tables and over pumping.
WaterWatch believes the “stockwatering” exemption was never intended for an industrial mega-dairy in a Critical Groundwater Area and that the law should be changed to put reasonable limits on the exemption.
The Salem Statesman Journal agrees:
“The insolence shown by California businessman Greg te Velde, who owns the dairy, screams for Oregon to take action now, close the loophole, and ensure that it’s not manipulated again.
Doing so may be of little comfort to neighboring farmers who are now fearful that their water supplies are at risk because pumping levels were in decline before te Velde tapped the aquifer.
It’s time to slam this loophole shut.”
We could not have said it better ourselves.
The Oregon Water Resources Department could lead this effort. Please contact Governor Kate Brown and urge her to have the Water Resources Department take any and all steps – including 2019 legislation – to, as the Statesman Journal put it, “slam this loophole shut.”
You can contact Governor Brown here:
Thank you for your action to secure balanced water policies for Oregon,
WaterWatch of Oregon