Towns and cities throughout Oregon and Washington provide safe, reliable supplies of clean drinking water to their residents, day in and day out. However, small and rural towns provide this amazing service with far fewer resources.
Protecting drinking water at its source is the first line of defense in a multi-barrier approach to ensuring safe drinking water. But small drinking water providers do not have staff dedicated solely to source water protection. Operators are busy treating water to regulatory standards and keeping it flowing in its pipes. There’s no doubt that their job would be a lot easier if they had some help to protect and enhance water quality before it enters their treatment plant.
Fortunately, in the Pacific Northwest we have many groups that can provide the critical services needed to plan and implement source water protection activities.
In national polls, American consistently rank drinking water quality and safety as a top environmental concern. At the same time, polls also reveal that few Americans actually know where their drinking water originates. These facts highlight how important it is for drinking water utilities to communicate regularly with their customers. Ratepayers who understand and care about their drinking water supply are more likely to support the utility’s source water protection efforts.
Finding the right means to reach customers and deciding what to say may seem like a challenge, though. That’s why the American Water Works Association (AWWA) commissioned a report to help small- and medium-sized utilities more effectively communicate on source water protection issues in their Consumer Confidence Reports (CCRs). The CCR is a unique opportunity to connect with and educate customers since every utility is required to send one to every customer each year.
It’s September in western Oregon and a helicopter whirrs overhead. A 32” diameter Douglas-Fir log is tethered from the helicopter’s underside with a heavy cable. On the ground below, a crew of workers are directing the swinging log’s placement into Rickreall Creek. But why all the effort to bring in helicopters to drop logs into a creek? Bounded on both sides by private and federal timber lands, this section of Rickreall Creek is part of a much bigger effort to improve water quality and recover the health and productivity of the entire Rickreall watershed.
Guest Author, Marlies Wierenga, WildEarth Guardians
Sipping my Pallet Jack IPA at Barley Brown’s brewery on an early September evening, I didn’t put much thought into the primary ingredient of the beer – water. Me and my fellow brewery companions just enjoyed our beers. Having won many awards, Barley Brown is known for its beer. Located in historic Baker City, Oregon – locals and travelers converge to raise pints and swap stories.
It wasn’t until the next day, when I began listening to Michelle Owen and Jake Jones from the City of Baker City and Robert Macon and Kelby Witherspoon from the U.S. Forest Service describe the drinking water watershed that the connection was made in my head. Seems silly given that I was in Baker City as a member of the Drinking Water Providers Partnership. The partnership was formed to help restore and protect the health of watersheds which communities depend upon for drinking water while also benefiting aquatic and riparian ecosystems. One way we achieve this is through an annual grant program. In late 2015 Baker City applied for, and received, a grant to help purchase and install fencing in their ongoing effort to protect their drinking water source area. It’d seem obvious that I would consider water while drinking beer, but like most people, I often take clean water (and good beer) for granted.