Oregon Water Justice Alliance

Take Action To Protect Oregon’s Groundwater!

Comments on OWRD’s Groundwater Rulemaking due May 31

Oregon’s water resources have been overallocated to the great detriment of our ecosystems, river-dependent communities, and domestic water supplies, primarily to benefit white-owned commercial agriculture. As manufactured water scarcity becomes more problematic due to climate change, the Oregon Water Resource Department is finally undertaking a rulemaking process to implement groundwater management legislation that was passed 30+ years ago. The agricultural industry is heavily involved in the process, and the voices of environmental justice activists are needed to counter their influence.

WHAT: Be a voice for sustainable water allocation

Please submit a comment today using the form below to insist that the State does more to protect our public trust waters for ecosystems and essential domestic human needs. You can also learn more on the Oregon Water Resource Department’s Groundwater Rulemaking page

WHY: Current state water policy is causing extinction and harm to environmental justice communities

The implementation of strong groundwater rules is needed to: a) Curb excessive use/waste, largely by the agricultural industry; b) Protect Oregon’s rapidly depleting aquifers AND interconnected surface waters; and c) Plan for climate change-driven drought and less reliable water supplies. A related Critical Groundwater Area designation projects that water allocations will tier to is also underway but will take several years. We need to ensure it continues to move forward in an effective and timely manner.

Oregon is also updating its strategy on how its numerous state agencies collaborate on water use to ensure the long-term health of the ecosystem and the needs of the public. The Integrated Water Resources Strategy needs to have a stronger commitment to protecting water for nature and essential domestic uses.

HOW: Please use the prefilled form to express yourself. Add a comment to include why you care about this issue from a personal perspective makes it mean more to the decisionmakers.

Thank you for taking the time to act on behalf of a more just and sustainable water future!

Petition Language

To Oregon Water Resources Department & Water Resource Commissioners,

I write today to encourage you to continue strengthening your efforts to protect our public trust waters with more just water allocation rules and their implementation, particularly for our dwindling groundwater resources. The long-delayed groundwater rulemaking process and critical groundwater designations must do more to address our growing water allocation crisis. Specifically, within both these processes and the update to the Integrated Water Resources Strategy, I call upon you to:

  • Implement strong rules to a) Curb excessive use/waste of groundwater, largely by the agricultural industry; b) Protect Oregon’s rapidly depleting aquifers AND interconnected surface waters; and c) Plan for climate change-driven drought and less reliable water supplies. The draft rules were encouraging, but I am alarmed by the extreme pushback from industry and how it might influence the outcome.
  • Expedite Critical Groundwater designations in Oregon’s basins suffering from excessively declining aquifer levels. Please don’t let wasteful irrigators, their lobbyists, and lawyers make this already lengthy process last a lifetime in order to perpetuate the status quo.
  • Acknowledge hydrologic connections in the water cycle – between groundwater and streams – and use the Public Trust Doctrine to stop draining our aquifers. Groundwater is a giant battery of water that your agency has allowed irrigators to drain for decades. The Public Trust Doctrine requires you to hold water in trust for the future. Use it!
  • Implement minimum stream flow requirements as ordered by the Endangered Species Act and the Public Trust Doctrine, which, respectively, protect fish and humans. These minimum stream flow requirements form the basis below which no water right may ever breach. Oregon used to have minimum stream flows, but in 1987 they were replaced by an Orwellian process that gives ecosystems junior water rights to their own water. Now, in the summer when minimum stream flows are most needed, senior irrigation water right holders trump those junior in-stream rights and over-pump our streams. This racket must be stopped.
  • Protect water for critical human needs including domestic uses, Tribal fishing practices, small-scale local food production, and municipalities by defining what are beneficial uses of water and harmful uses of water. Agriculture accounts for more than 78% of Oregon’s water use, and about 80% of irrigated crops in the U.S. are exported – that’s a lot of our water leaving the state – some of it permanently! The idea that whoever got in line first could use water for personal gain at the expense of the greater public interest is an inequitable and unjust vestige of the Wild West that harms our public health, impairs our safety, and risks our future welfare. Audit all commercial water rights and curtail non-beneficial water uses – we no longer have enough water to waste!

Thank you for the opportunity to comment. I hope you take my concerns seriously and begin doing more to uphold and enforce the laws that are designed to protect our environment and public trust waters.

[your name]