Water Bill Passes a Milestone

April 12, 2017

Stacey Malstrom, Oregon Environmental Council, (503) 508-7233
Jim McCarthy, WaterWatch of Oregon, (541) 708-0731

Water Bill Passes a Milestone
Oregon’s House Committee on Energy and Environment Makes Progress Toward Smart Water Management

SALEM — Tuesday evening, the Oregon House Committee on Energy and Environment voted to move HB 2705 out of committee, a bill that requires water right holders to measure water use and that is aimed at improving the state’s ability to sustainably manage Oregon’s limited water resources. The bipartisan vote showed support for continued conversations with stakeholders in a work group while the bill moves to the House Rules Committee.

“There is much work to do to ensure our water resources are managed wisely, but this is the most progress that has been made on these issues in many years and a positive signal of collaboration,” said Lori Grant, Water Program Director, Oregon Environmental Council. “The House Committee on Energy and Environment has made a strong statement today that common sense accounting of our water resources is critical to protecting our current and future water needs.”

“We commend Rep. Helm and the committee for moving this issue forward,” said Kimberley Priestley, WaterWatch Senior Policy Analyst. “This progress represents good news for all Oregonians. We are now a step closer to addressing some of the highest priority water management challenges impacting Oregon’s cities and towns, fish and wildlife, and businesses and recreationalists.”

Under Representative Ken Helm’s leadership, a work group made up of a broad range of stakeholders, including water users and conservation communities, continues to discuss reliable and responsible solutions to Oregon’s water management challenges and make recommendations to improve the current smart water management bill concepts as they continue through the House. Progress made thus far by the work group was an influential force for committee members deciding how to proceed with HB 2705 Tuesday evening.

Two other bills fundamental to addressing Oregon’s current and future water needs (HB 2706 and HB 2707) will be heard by the House Committee on Energy and Environment this afternoon, Wed., April 12, at 3pm.

In 2016, a Secretary of State’s Office Audit and The Oregonian’s Draining Oregon investigation exposed funding challenges and critical data gaps preventing Oregon Water Resources Department from effectively balancing the needs of water users, fish and wildlife, and healthy streams and communities. Additionally, Oregon wells and streams are already going dry at critical times of year because officials have promised more water than nature can provide.

To address these issues, the smart water management bills propose:
HB 2705: Measure our water use.
HB 2706: Ensure stable funding for critical management services.
HB 2707: Identify where and how much groundwater is available.