Since You Asked: The well ain’t dry, but source is all wet

Since You Asked: The well ain’t dry, but source is all wet

Mail Tribune
May 11, 2007

I just recently heard a snippet on the news regarding a bill which Oregon is trying to sneak through. Oregon legislators are saying the state is out of money and have come up with the idea to place water meters on personal wells throughout the state. The state is keeping it very quiet and will not relinquish any info on the matter. Can you please enlighten us on the situation as myself and many others would like to voice our opinion on the proposed well water meter? Thank you.

— C. Johnson, Jacksonville

Perhaps your source (we’ll venture a guess — AM talk radio?) colored the news to suit an agenda? We found info on the bill readily available on the Legislature’s Web site and, especially as amended, it isn’t the sinister Big Brother measure you heard about.

Also, the state is far from being “out of money” with a rebounding economy swelling state income tax revenues. On the contrary, the state is actually restoring funding for major expenditures, most notably public schools and the Oregon State Police. Besides, charging for groundwater — which this measure never set out to do — seems a not-so-lucrative way to increase state revenue. That’s what Oregon’s smokers, Lottery players and heavy drinkers are for, right?

House Bill 2564 as originally introduced would have required all water users to install meters measuring usage, including those on private wells. However, it was heavily amended by the House Committee on Environment and Energy and only applies to “significant diversions” from selected watersheds around the state. A reporting requirement of usage also was dropped.

Kimberley Priestley, assistant director of WaterWatch Oregon, said her organization still supports the bill, despite its limited scope. “We think everyone who is using this public resource should measure,” she said.

“This gets an important concept into statute,” she said, adding it allows the state agency to get a better gauge on what is happening with diminished water levels by checking if users are taking more water than they are entitled to.

Significant diversions are defined as greater than 5 cubic feet per second, primarily for irrigation. Currently only about 7 to 8 percent of water users with existing rights are metered; the bill would bring that up to about 10 percent. The Department of Water Resources requires all water users with rights obtained in 1993 or later to meter.

The measure also directs the Water Resources Department to provide financial help in installing meters.

If you want to speak your piece on it, contact your legislator and mention the bill, which you can review at (click on “Full Measure Text” on the right menu, then enter “2564” into the search field on the page that opens up).

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