Oregon will soon have a new tool to stop water violations

By Ella Hutcherson (Jefferson Public Radio)
July 20, 2023 1 p.m.
Oregon Water Resources Department watermaster at scene of water violation in Jackson County, Ore., on June 29, 2023.

Oregon Water Resources Department watermaster at scene of water violation in Jackson County, Ore., on June 29, 2023.

Jackson County Sheriff's Office

Oregon lawmakers recently approved legislation allowing the state’s water resources department to pursue immediate court relief over water use violations that cause irreparable harm.

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Currently, consequences for misuse of water can take months to go into effect.

“In the meantime, the perpetrator would just continue to misuse water,” said Rep. Pam Marsh, D-Ashland, who drafted and sponsored the bill. “And we understand that water is our most precious resource, so that was really just not an acceptable outcome.”

With the passage of House Bill 2929, the Oregon Water Resources Department will be able to halt illegal water use much sooner. Marsh said this is an important tool for the fair distribution of a finite resource.

“We believe that in this day and age, when drought is our constant companion, that we should never have a situation in which someone’s allowed to keep misusing water,” Marsh said.

Violations include the use or storage of water without a right, interference with a headgate, unlawful use of groundwater and willful waste. If a person is committing water violations, the state water department will be able to apply to a county circuit court for an injunction. This would require the person to stop the activity and remedy the violation.

The bill is awaiting Gov. Tina Kotek’s signature.

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