1)In the small coastal valleys, some areas that were farms in the early 1900's are now forests. They have registered water rights that clearly are not being used. In some watersheds it would be useful for these early dated rights to become instream rights for fish. However the system for vacating a water right makes it expensive and bureaucratically difficult for the state to do it. Also, any notice of termination to the owner might well cause him to start using the water right again further depleting water needed for healthy salmon stocks. If there were some financial benefit for someone not using a water right to permanently give it up, more water rights would be relinquished voluntarily. I would not support this to give more water to lower ranked water rights, but to give the water to the fish.
2)There needs to be an incentive to use less water rather than a requirement that water be used regularly to keep a water right. Is anyone working on something like this?
We're coming up on the 100th Anniversary of Oregon's 1909 Water Code. It started out as a progressive, cutting-edge effort that declared that all water in Oregon belonged to the public, and that you had to get permission from the people (a water right) before you got to use it.
But a century later, our water laws are out of sync with both our water needs and our water psyches. While we're just beginning to understand that even in Western Oregon we're water-short (and have been for decades), the way we've managed and planned for water is not an Oregon Story we'd be proud of.
As summed up in the final chapter of my book, The Oregon Water Handbook (OSU Press, 2006; OK, there goes my anonymity) here are some things we need to do and now:
- Start measuring--do a better job measuring what rain falls and what snow melts; especially start measuring what we all use (this has never been a requirement of Oregon law). You can't manage what you don't measure.
- Charge something for using the public's water: the State charges people who log trees from public lands, whose cows eat public grass, who moor their house-boats over state-owned riverbeds, who take the public's game animals and fish--and yet Oregon doesn't charge a cent for use of its water.
- Start treating Oregon's water like an important public asset: we have a State Transporation Plan to assure mobility and investment in our road network; a Forestry Program to assure we have a supply of wood fiber; a Watershed and Salmon Plan to bring health back to our lands and ecosystems. But we don't have a Water Supply Strategy that gives any context, guidance, priority, or sense of urgency to a population that doubles every few decades.
February 24, 2009 would be a good day for all Oregonians to take stock of where we are with water, how important it really is to us and our children, and whether we have the political will as a people to set a 21st Century water course.
Current water law could be implemented more effectively. COnversion of agricultural water rights to municipal uses should be extremely difficult to do. And the beneficial use condition should be aggressively enforced. For example, when agricultural land is added to an urban growht boundary, the question of whether urban facilities are adequate to support new urban uses on the land should not be affected by the existence of agricultural water rights on the land. Watering lawns is not a beneficial agricultural use of water resources. Those rights should be reclaimed for agricultural use and available to farm use.
I live in a Limited Ground Water Area, as designated of the Oregon Water Resources Department, [OWRD]. Yet in all dealings with the OWRD, it appears that political influence and influence lobbying by developers carry more weight than the interests of residents. The judicial system appears biased by political and economic influence. Some County Commissioners appear more focussed by election fund raising than the interests of the tax payers. The technical and scientific staff at the State agency appear be under intense pressure to be mute and suppress their technical knowledge. Decisions by most of the above indicate that they prefer to believe that water resources are unlimited. Until crises develop when it is too late for corrective action.
Such is the State of Oregon water resource planning as we continue the "Oregon Water Wars".
Bernie N, these are serious concerns. Can you give us a specific example of what you see as the politicization of water decisions?
I can. Pete's Mountain.
Residents have shown a hydraulic connection between wells on Pete's Mountain, documenting how drilling one new well caused several surrounding wells to have problems. Residents have been asking OWRD for help in evaluating the long term viability of our ground water supply. OWRD admits that they don't have scientific information except that they know future development needs to look to an alternate source.
Clackamas County has been advised of these problems through the public hearings process and is well aware of the problems.
Yet neither OWRD nor Clackamas County will make a decision that supports the majority residents. The development residents are fighting is a Measure 37 hot potato development that no one wants to touch for fear of getting burned.
Sacrifice the residents (including future residents who would be harmed when the water level doesn't support their households) for politics.
Water law in Oregon permits homeowners to use up to 15,000 gallons of well water per day for home use (not agricultural) . The same law limits lawn and garden irrigation to 1/2 acre. One half acre of lawn and garden can be healthily maintained in the Willamette Valley with 2,000 gallons/day average water usage in the hottest month. I know because I do. In limited water areas excessive usage of 15,000 gallon/day can affect everyone in the aquifer. The law needs to be changed to protect our aquifers.
I have contributed to this program's comments twice before regarding water issues, once in relation to a discussion on land use issues and the second time when the topic was global warming and natural resource depletion.
We have been dealing with water concerns in our community just outside the urban growth boundary of Portland for the 35 years we have lived here. Ground water limitations have led to real and potential jeopardy with regard to adequate and good quality water supply for residences and agricultural uses.
We believe strongly that the archaic water laws allow for profligate uses by those who have individual or exempt wells, allowing for up to 1/2 acre irrigation and enormous amounts of domestic water. These laws must be changed to reflect the current realities and to reinforce and encourage water conservation.
We have installed and are using a rainwater collection on our 2 acre home site (which will be featured in an article in the Oregonian this week), which allows us to provide for most, if not all, the irrigation needs of our large vegetable garden and many ornamental beds. We have also planted many native or less water dependent plants and will be using drip irrigation methods this year.
We now believe that building regulations should be altered to require that most new construction include rainwater collection systems to provide water for non-potable uses. It will be a lot easier to include these (and other energy and resource saving) measures in new construction than in remodels or retrofits. However, technical and financial support for new and used construction projects such as these should be developed by state and federal legislation.
Title: Private greed blocks democratic process in wine country water bottling dispute.
My neighbors and I, living on Worden Hill, near Dundee, received notices from Yamhill County that Tori Mor Vineyard and Water, LLC, had applied for a conditional use permit to "extract and bottle water" (quote from county code). A number of us have wells that go temporarily dry if we run too much water at one time so we believe no commercial entity should be allowed to pump from our aquifers and sell the water for its own private profit. We appealed the application and got a public hearing scheduled. We worked hard getting petitions signed, gathering information and submitting this all to the county planning department. The hearing room was filling to overflowing with my neighbors all opposed to the county issuing the permit. The Tori Mor lawyer asked to "continue" the hearing, that is, postpone it for a month or more. No testimony was allowed except for two of us who were not able to attend the next scheduled hearing. So we all went home. A few days before the next scheduled hearing we all received letters from Yamhill County Planning Department that Tori Mor had withdrawn the request for "extraction and bottling of water". You would think that meant Tori Mor had decided not to bottle and sell our water. No! The next issue of the McMinnville News Register newspaper had an article headlined "Tori Mor given green light on water bottling". The rest of the story: Tori Mor's attorney had gone to the Yamhill Planning Department and argued that since Tori Mor was only extracting the water on the property but was bottling it at another location, the requirement for a conditional use permit did not apply and therefore Tori Mor should be allowed to proceed without any regulation. Under pressure the county attorney decided to accept the argument. Thus a commercial entity willing to spend money for good legal counsel was able to circumvent the democratic conditional use application process and was allowed to remove and export water from our aquifers even though all the local people were opposed. Well I suppose we could lawyer up and go to court, but frankly I would be afraid that we would be defeated by some clever legal argument that hinged on some minor technicality that had nothing to do with the main question. I have compared the price of the Tori Mor bottled water with that of other bottled water. Assuming that the cost of bottling the water is similar across the board, the profits of Tori Mor water are absolutely mind boggling. The Oregon Water Resources Department allows 5000 gallons per day commercial use without a permit. 5000 gallons of bottled water at Tori Mor's price is tens of thousands of dollars. This is a natural for a winery since they already have the marketing network in place. Most of us feel that selling water as a commodity may be legal, but is not ethical, at least it should be of the lowest priority for use.
I have a question regarding the eastern 2/3 of the state. That part of the state is High Desert. How would we possibly come up with enough water for the residents in that part of the state?
To point out the obvious, limit the number of residents to the amount of water that is available. But then ol' mother nature will eventually do that, she always bats last.
To paraphrase someone else water will be the new oil. Only a matter of time. What other country flushes with drinking water, bathes in drinking water?
You might also discuss the issues going on in Georgia, Alabama and Florida, which metaphorically is on the verge of civil war.
The host made a statement that all water in Oregon has been allocated, but i wonder if that is true?
Can someone speak to the situation at Bowman Reservoir which, I understand, has a vast amount of unallocated water. This water could really benefit both communities in Eastern Oregon as well as fish in the Crooked River.
Currently there is an effort to reintroduce anadromous fish in this drainage, but water comes up again and again as the X factor, even while landowners and Portland General Electric are scrambling to provide fish passage and habitat improvements.
I'm not too worried about our future water shortages. I'm sure we will just send in the 82ond Airborne to take someone else's water.
"Its in our interests..."
A brave man once said: "I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully."
Oregon Water Resources allows any homeowner to drill wells regardless of stressed aquifers that will impact their neighbors water supply a few years in the future. Each home owner is able to use 15,000 gallons a day by law. That is insane! Enforcement is driven only by neighbor complaints against neighbor. That creates great tension in a neighborhood. At the Water Rights division there is such a backlog that often the most expedient way of getting what you want is through a lawyer, like Ms. Pagel, a water lawyer who is an ex director of Oregon Water Resources.
I live in an area of basalt aquifers where there has been limited growth until a Measure 37 sudivision wants to build luxury homes and put their straws into the aquifer.
There is no political leadership or courage to manage the Groundwater Act of 1955. Oregon Water Resources manages only by crisis. They do not manage water resources. After there is a crisis and much more expensive.
I don't understand why the topic of home water catchment never comes up. We lived off the grid for many years in Arizona and had a 500 gallon tank and a water catchment system that channeled water off the roof and through a filter and into the tank. This provided all of our water needs. If we could do this in the desert of AZ it could defintley be done in most of Oregon.
I think it's too cheap of a solution. It doesn't require enough government money or huge state projects.
Sometimes I think we need to look to simpler solutions.
This is a bit of a divergance from this threads main topic, but the water as oil metaphor can go much farther than the integral nature of both commodities in our economy and their rising prices/demand--both are large sources of carbon dioxide emissions and both need to be used more efficiently. I am an intern at River Network, an NGO here in Portland, where i am assisting in a new program looking at the relationship between water and energy. What we've found is pretty revealing:
California water and wastewater agencies alone spend $500 million per year in energy costs while other water utilities, such as the Southern Nevada Water Authority, see 30-35% of their operating costs going directly towards providing energy to treat and distribute water. In the United States, municipal water and wastewater systems use 75 billion kilowatt hours--between 3-4% of total U.S. electricity consumption. (from http://www.nrdc.org/water/conservation/edrain/contents.asp) That's not even taking into account the energy associated with end-uses of water, which bring figure up to around 9% of total U.S. electricity consumption.
With the looming crisis of climate change and realization that traditional drinking water systems are a significant source of CO2 emissions, conservation, efficiency and reuse are going to have to play a much larger role in maintaining our water supply. Look at Seattles 1% per year program where per capita water consumption has been declining by 1% per year for the last decade or so, thus foregoing the need for expanded infrastructure. Other cities throughout the country have also shown the feasibility of delaying new water infrastructure through conservation and efficiency: check out this EPA collection of case studies: http://www.epa.gov/watersense/docs/utilityconservation_508.pdf (PDF 500kb)
Although Oregon does not have a statewide plan, a few cities including Portland do have plans (Portland's new plan might still be in draft stage). The best ways we can deal with water scarcity are rain water harvesting, improving end-use efficiency, improving infrastructure efficiency, conservation oriented pricing (increasing-block or seasonal rate), storm/waste/greywater reuse, and low impact development strategies.
An interesting post. I sure hadn't thought of any of that.
With many of Oregons cities and towns depending upon rivers for drinking water, one has to be concerned about what effect zebra mussels and their cousins will have upon our water. Oregon Field Guide had a recent show that has to raise concern for the quality of water that will be available from our rivers in the future. If non-native mussels are allowed to get a foothold in our rivers, cities such as Salem, which depends upon water from the North Santiam River, will be faced with either cleaning up tainted water or finding a new supply from wells.
I live in Wilsonville in a 5 year old subdivison named Arbor Crossing. We are required to have a lawn and to keep it green. We are even required to keep a lawn around the street tree strip. One neighbor had a professional landscape company install very nice beds of plants that wouldn't use so much water but the Homeowner association, which is actually controlled by the developer, made them put back in a lawn. The soil here is bad, you have to water almost every day durning the summer to keep the lawn green and a lot of water goes down the street. One must also use a lot of fertilizer to keep the lawn green.
The only way to change this is for a law to be made so that developers can't make a homeowner assoication require a green lawn. Nice landscaping yes, required lawns, NO.
In regard to exempt domestic, 1/2 acre wells, statute does allow this use, however adequate regulation and oversight does not occur. Exempt wells are not required to be metered and illegal irrigation is rampant across the state. What is the cumulative impact of exempt wells and how is illegal water use to be combatted in a complaint driven and understaffed system?
Before investing millions of taxpayer dollars in new water storage projects in Oregon, there are many steps we can take to improve conservation and efficiency to reduce the demand for water. Projections of growing water demand are often inaccurate.
Take for example the city of Salem. In 1995 the City of Salem projected that peak water demand would increase to 90 MGD (million gallons per day) by 2007 and to 170 MGD by 2025. In fact, peak water demand has actually decreased since 1995 due to conservation measures and it is now projected to reach only 70 MGD by 2025. You can see these statistics at http://water.oregonstate.edu/asr/presentations/Pulley.pdf.
In addition to taking common sense steps to conserve water and reduce leakage and waste, the state should do more to help individuals and businesses use more innovative measures to reduce the demand for water, such as building cisterns to harvest rainwater for outdoor irrigation and re-using graywater for non-potable needs like flushing toilets.
Audiences I speak to can name two dozen problems that will get better as our population falls. One example, fresh water availability. Underpopulation is one solution no one talks about. The other technical options are historically out-matched by population growth.
As Emily promised, Rob Manning's recent report about water in wine country.
These resource considerations are very old problems. If you?re interested in the history of how civilizations built and died on resources I recommend a book by:
Felipe Fernandez-Armesto; ?Civilizations: Culture, Ambition, and the Transformation of Nature?.
We can learn from history, but will we?
I live in the Groundwater Limited Area of Pete's Mountain in West Linn along with approximately 200 other families. We are 100% dependent upon groundwater. There have been numerous well problems on Pete's Mountain ranging from a complete halt in water production, to such diminished flow that water simply trickles, to iron bacteria - the tell tale sign that you're near the bottom of your water supply. The local community well (water company that services less than half the residents) has instituted water rationing in the past when the water table dropped below their well pump and the back-up well needed to be brought into service. They've also sent warning letters to residents about the declining groundwater supply, the dangers of well drilling and their intention to fight for their senior water right. Water is precious on Pete's Mountain.
Yet the OWRD and Clackamas County, in the face of [b]hundreds[/b] of resident complaints & testimony documenting problems have been unwilling or unable to take a position that [b]PROTECTS[/b] the groundwater on which every resident on Pete's Mountain depends. By this I mean that the County is pushing through the approval of a Measure 37 subdivision that is much more dense than most of Pete's Mountain and OWRD has approved an application allowing our troubled community well provider to expand water service to this M37 subdivision.
OWRD admits that they have [b]insufficient well data on Pete's Mountain[/b]. In fact, I've seen correspondence between the highest official of OWRD in which he advises a State Senator that groundwater on Pete's Mountain is declining and future development will need to look to another source of water. Despite this, OWRD approved our local well provider (who is being purchased by a Measure 37 developer) to expand their water services to a proposed Measure 37 subdivision.
As unbelievable as it may sound, both County and OWRD have "washed their hands" after resting on a technicality residents never knew existed, or have little control over. The word "coordinated" appears in a County ordinance that requires "coordination" (which is not well defined) between the County and OWRD to determine whether there is a problem with the water supply before a subdivision application is approved. So absent "coordination" a subdivision can be constructed in an area that is experiencing water supply challenges, like Pete's Mountain.
This technicality is harmful to existing residents, future residents and the groundwater supply on which we depend.
There is no recourse for residents. We've been denied due process with the Oregon Water Resources Dept.
And if your well runs dry, you can call the OWRD (as residents on Pete's Mountain have) and OWRD will they tell you drill deeper (at considerable expense) before they begin the regulatory call process on surrounding wells...which may or may not help your well.
Prove the water supply with independent, verifiable scientific data before you allow someone to build more homes. Develop a plan that actually protects [u]Oregon Water Resources[/u].
It is very sad to say, but MONEY TALKS, and unfortunately it is not TAXPAYER DOLLARS. How can those who we choose to represent us and protect us overlook such critically important data? Obviously, citizens did everything in their power to follow the appropriate legal course of action to protect their homes and families from an unjust situation. It worries me when those we entrust can't hear the voices of the people, just those with deep pockets and political connections. Your community deserves better.
Who loses and who gains in this situation???
Will those in OWRD help you when your wells run dry? Will they support you when your house burns down without ample water to put out the sparks? Sounds like the people made a mistake in trusting OWRD, Clackamas County, and even our Senator to do the right thing.
Technicalities just provide excuses for people to do the wrong thing. What about integrity and doing the right thing?
After reading about Tori Mor and Pete's Mountain, I have lost faith in these Oregonian leaders of Clackamas County, Yamhill County and the OWRD to do the right thing. Shame on technicalities. Stand up for what is right.
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