Projects in Oregon and Washington aim to benefit people and salmon and trout.
On World Water Day, a day dedicated to taking action for water, the Drinking Water Providers Partnership celebrates actions that ripple up and down streams - simply by making connections.
Our survival depends on clean water, a fact that Pacific Northwesterners know very well: over 3.7 million people in Washington and 3.5 million people in Oregon get their drinking water from rivers and streams. When their sources of drinking water are polluted, these communities suffer. So do fish that depend on clean water, such as salmon and steelhead. Yet Oregon and Washington don’t have the billions of dollars needed to repair drinking water infrastructure like filtration systems, pipes, culverts, etc.
Thanks to funding from the Drinking Water Providers Partnership, the Rogue River Watershed Council is about to embark upon a quarter-million-dollar effort to reconnect Little Butte Creek to its floodplain as it flows through the City of Eagle Point. In 2016, the Partnership helped to fund planning and design work to return the creek to its historic meander and reduce erosion. Little Butte Creek jumped its channel during the New Year's Day flood of 1997 and has since been eating away at City-owned property that the community hopes to turn into a park.
"The creek now cuts a tight dog-leg right and is scouring out the bank, adding extra sediment to the creek that neither wild coho salmon juveniles nor Medford water drinkers want to see."
The Freshwater Trust (TFT) is using satellite imagery, science-based modeling, and publicly available data to identify sites where restoration will reduce erosion into southern Oregon’s Little Butte Creek.
“More than $5.6 billion is needed in drinking water infrastructure repairs and improvements in Oregon over the next 20 years as we make room for another one to two million residents – all of whom will need clean water,” said Cathy Kellon, Working Waters Program Director with the Geos Institute. “The Partnership’s work is a critical starting point because safe drinking water starts upstream.”
The Geos Institute is a member of the Drinking Water Providers Partnership, a public/private partnership that recently awarded TFT a $20,000 grant to do the assessment with important matching contributions from the Medford Water Commission and Rogue Basin Partnership. Watershed restoration is viewed as an effective way to support clean, inexpensive drinking water, while also providing important habitat for native fish.
Almost in the center of Douglas County Oregon sits a town of nearly 2,000 people called Glide. A unique phenomenon occurs in Glide and nowhere else in the world – two rivers collide head-to-head into each other. The Little River flows up from the south and the Umpqua River, flowing from the east, takes a sharp bend and meets the Little River at almost a straight angle. Swirling eddies and rapids in the crystal blue waters are mesmerizing.
But we are not here to (only) watch two rivers collide. Cathy, from the Geos Institute, and myself, from WildEarth Guardians, came to learn how the Umpqua National Forest is working to keep the river clean and clear. More than half of the residents of Glide depend on drinking water drawn from the Umpqua River. Investing in measures that keep water clean at the source is a common sense strategy for keeping water treatment costs down and protecting public health. Though the upstream forested lands with towering Douglas Fir and Western Hemlock seem like great water protectors, it is the thousands of miles of roads criss-crossing the forest that can cause the greatest risk to Glide’s drinking water.