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Water and geology
Who owns and manages Oregon's water?

By law, all surface and groundwater in Oregon belongs to the public, but there are many groups that have a hand in its management.

On a statewide basis, it is the job of the Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRD) to manage the use of Oregon's public water to ensure a sufficient supply to sustain its growing economy, quality of life, and natural heritage. That means preserving an equitable balance between public and private uses of water. OWRD protects existing uses of water while trying to maintain adequate levels in waterways to support fish, wildlife, water quality, and recreation.

OWRD staff monitor water levels at hundreds of gaging stations, map and study underground aquifers and help design long-term water plans for Oregon's river basins. OWRD, like DOGAMI, supplies local governments and citizen groups with information and technical assistance to make and carry out their own water programs.

The Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB) is another state agency that promotes and funds voluntary actions related to Oregon's watersheds. OWEB's programs support Oregon's efforts to restore salmon runs, improve water quality, and strengthen ecosystems that are critical to healthy watersheds and sustainable communities. OWEB administers a grant program that awards more than $20 million
annually to support these voluntary efforts.

On a local management level, watershed councils in Oregon are voluntary, non-regulatory groups established to improve the condition of watersheds in their local area. There are dozens of watershed councils in the state – some, like the Harney County Watershed Council, cover a huge area, others may cover only a small creek’s watershed. Through the councils, partnerships between residents, local, state and federal agency staff, and others can be developed.

Other state organizations have a hand in water management as well. The Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Division provides support to 45 Soil and Water Conservation Districts that interface with local and state groups to promote watershed health. The Division of State Lands, the Department of Forestry, and the Department of Fish and Wildlife also play a part in how Oregon’s groundwater and surface water are used.

Even federal agencies impact water management in Oregon. They include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Land Management, the USDA Forest Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service.

DOGAMI, while not involved in water management, works with all of these agencies to craft successful groundwater and surface water strategies and is responsible for making geologic maps that include critical groundwater information.

Who owns the water has a simple answer. Who manages this resource is a question that often times has no simple answer. But finding the water to use in many cases is the first big step, and knowing that geology controls where you find water at least gives this question a solution.

Water related resources:

The 1,000 foot Lorella Deep Well drilled in1999 in Klamath County has led to an increased understanding of the region's water resources.




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800 NE Oregon Street, Suite 965, Portland, OR 97232-2162
(971) 673-1555, FAX (971) 673-1562
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