Support Rivers and Fish as Part of Oregon’s Integrated Water Resources Strategy (IWRS) Update

May 22, 2023

Oregon’s Kitchen Table recently posted a survey to help state officials better understand what water issues are important to you. The information and data collected will ultimately help shape the next iteration of the state’s Integrated Water Resources Strategy (IWRS).

Background: The IWRS is Oregon’s blueprint for meeting both instream and out-of-stream needs, and is critical to shaping agency policy, programs, and budgets. First published in 2012, the IWRS provides a roadmap for better understanding and meeting the state’s water needs and by law must be updated every five years. The Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRD) and its partner agencies are currently seeking input on a now-overdue update to the IWRS.

Action Needed: Help us ensure the water needs of rivers and fish are part of the state’s IWRS update by taking this survey today, which is available online through June 15th.

Since the survey doesn’t provide many opportunities to check off specific boxes for rivers, fish, or other instream values, use the “other” option as often as you need to raise issues that are important to you but may not be in the survey.

Some sample messages to consider for both “major concerns” and also “what needs to be done” include:

Major Water Issues and Concerns

  • Many of Oregon’s rivers, streams, wetlands and lakes do not have enough water in them to meet the needs of fish and wildlife.
  • Climate change will only make things worse for rivers, streams, and ecosystems.
  • The state doesn’t adequately protect rivers or fish during drought.
  • Groundwater has not been sustainably managed throughout the state.
  • The state has inadequate data and tools to sustainably manage water.
  • Dams are blocking fish migration and habitat connectivity.
  • Illegal water use is hurting both instream and out-of-stream interests, including rivers and fish.
  • The legislature doesn’t adequately fund state agency work in water.

What Need to Be Done

The state should invest and provide political support for instream flow protection and restoration efforts, including but not limited to:

  • Adopting more instream water rights.
  • Designating additional state scenic waterways.
  • Incentivizing, streamlining, and funding transfers of water instream.
  • Adopting protections for fish and wildlife during drought, like ensuring “minimum flows,” or the minimum amount of water needed for fish and wildlife.
  • Modernizing the state’s water transfer statutes to require an environmental review.

Oregon should also invest and provide political support for data collection, including but not limited to:

  • Groundwater studies.
  • Instream flow studies statewide.
  • Statewide peak and ecological flow studies.
  • Expand the state’s streamflow and temperature gauge network.
  • Require water use measurement and reporting.

The state must invest in and support efforts to restore habitat connectivity:

  • Remove fish-killing dams.
  • Provide passage for fish at dams, including culverts.
  • Enforce existing fish passage and screening laws.

Oregon should invest in and provide political support for smart, robust water management including but not limited to:

  • Require measurement and reporting of water use.
  • Enforce permit conditions.
  • Enforce against illegal use.
  • Require a water rights administrative fee to help fund state management of water rights

The state must get serious and sustainably manage groundwater. The state’s current approach to groundwater allocation is harming springs, wetlands, and domestic well users. Oregon’s Integrated Water Resources Strategy must invest in and provide political support to:

  • Support the state’s effort to modernize its groundwater allocation policy to ensure that allocation is within the capacity of the resource.
  • Strengthen laws that allow the state to regulate groundwater rights that are interfering with surface water right.
  • Adopt critical groundwater areas in basins experiencing groundwater declines.

Basically, the state needs to hear from you — now — that you care about Oregon’s rivers. Complete the online survey by June 15th. Many thanks!