Developing the solutions toolbox is paramount for meeting instream and out‐of‐stream water needs in a given place, today and into the future. Considering the diversity of water challenges, planning groups will likely need to consider a suite of tools, examining various options for meeting unmet needs/ demands. This can include maintaining current practices, if they are sufficient to meet future needs / demands. Use of the following tools can help bridge any gaps identified. Note that the following solutions, listed in no particular order, is not all encompassing. Innovative approaches or solutions are strongly encouraged.
Efficiency and Conservation Measures
Consider improving water‐use efficiency and employing conservation practices as a means for meeting water needs. At the individual level, irrigators can reduce on‐farm water use by implementing a number of new technologies and practices. Several irrigation districts throughout Oregon have made their delivery systems more efficient in recent years, finding ways to save water, reduce costs, and improve the reliability of deliveries to water users. The state’s Allocation of Conserved Water program is a water right transfer tool that puts some water back instream while allowing some water to be applied to additional acreage.
Water conservation opportunities exist within municipal water systems as well. Delivery system upgrades and household‐level programs that install low‐flow toilets, faucet aerators, and high‐ efficiency shower heads can be effective tools for reducing water use and meeting additional demands. Rebate or outreach programs sponsored by municipal water providers have been effectively used in Oregon in the past and continue to be used to complement system upgrades. Landscaping can account for a significant use of water; installing efficient irrigation systems or selecting plants that require less water can also be effective tools, along with other landscaping techniques. (Refer to IWRS Action 10A for more information).
Built and Natural Storage
Storage as a water management tool includes natural storage, built storage (above‐ground and below‐ground), and operational changes to existing storage projects. The state of Oregon has a policy described in OAR 690‐410‐0080 that gives high priority to storage that optimizes instream and out‐of‐stream public benefits and beneficial uses. Multi‐purpose storage is preferred over single‐purpose storage.
If planning groups are considering new storage as a potential water management tool, the following should be considered:
Purpose (e.g., type, location and extent of use, benefits);
Legal Requirements (e.g., state, federal, and local legal requirements);
Social Considerations (e.g., recreational, public support, cultural, historic);
Technical Constraints (e.g., siting issues, public safety and structural integrity);
Financial Realities (e.g., project financing including site costs, cost sharing and repayment, and operating, maintenance and rehabilitation costs);
Economic Analysis (e.g., project benefit/cost analysis);
Land Use (e.g., ownership, comprehensive plans, coordination);
Environmental Effects (e.g., impacts on streamflows, fisheries, wildlife, wetlands, habitat, biological diversity, water quality and opportunities for mitigation);
Other (e.g., direct and indirect impacts).
For existing storage projects within the watershed, planning groups should evaluate current storage capacities, authorized purposes, and operational practices to determine if management or engineering adjustments could help meet any unmet needs/demands. Planning groups should also consider the enhancement of watershed storage capacity through natural processes using non‐structural means. These non‐structural means include maintaining forested and riparian areas, protecting or restoring floodplain functions, preserving wetlands, and restoring upland meadows. (Refer to IWRS Actions 10B and 11A for more information).
Water Right Transfers & Rotation Agreements
Water right transfers allow the water right holder to change the point of diversion, place of use, or type of use. The state provides options for permanent transfers, temporary transfers, and instream leases. Transfers can be used to move water to where it is needed, or to provide mitigation water for new consumptive uses of water. One of the basic tenets of a water right transfer is ensuring that other instream or out‐of‐stream uses are not injured as a result of the changes to the use. Whether the change is a transfer or a lease, it will not be authorized if other instream or out‐of‐stream water right holders are injured as a result of the change.
In addition to transfers, there are a number of other innovative management methods that can provide some flexibility and alternatives. For example, water users with existing water rights can enter into private signed agreements to rotate water and make the most economical use of a limited supply. Other examples of permanent and temporary options include dry year options and forbearance agreements.
Non-Traditional Water Supply Techniques
Planning groups should consider alternative or non‐traditional supplies, such as the use of rainwater, stormwater, greywater, or desalinated water as a management strategy.
For example, some Oregon communities have installed purple pipe as a means to use reclaimed water for golf courses or other greenways. Such installations require a parallel system of infrastructure, alongside traditional wastewater and stormwater pipes. The ability to use reclaimed water for non‐potable uses means that large amounts of water can by‐pass the treatment facility process, usually reserved for potable water supplies. (Refer to IWRS Action 10C for more information).
Desalination is a technique that allows communities to address water scarcity by treating brackish groundwater or saltwater. Both inland and coastal communities may wish to undertake desalination projects to meet their water needs. Such projects would need to seek approval through existing regulatory pathways, and where appropriate, planning groups may need to identify policy gaps that create barriers to desalination projects. The identification of these barriers would allow the state to pursue policy changes, if needed, so that desalination can occur where appropriate, without jeopardizing existing water rights and identified beneficial uses.
Water infrastructure needs are many and growing. As water and wastewater systems age, maintenance becomes a greater challenge and cost. Many of the diversion, conveyance, storage, and other infrastructure in Oregon are more than 100 years old and in need of repair or replacement. As communities grow and technologies improve, the need for modern infrastructure continues to grow as well. Developing regional partnerships among water providers and wastewater utilities can be a key component to a successful infrastructure program.
Planning groups should consider taking stock of water‐related infrastructure in the community to determine whether maintenance or upgrades are necessary and whether plans are in place to save for and invest in maintenance needs. A thorough structural review should be undertaken to assess the integrity of structures to withstand disturbances, such as earthquakes or large flood events. In addition, the planning group may want to evaluate whether reservoir storage capacity has been reduced, by sedimentation for example, or for public safety reasons. Doing so could help expand water supplies or provide greater system reliability during dry years. (Refer to IWRS Action 7A and 7B for more information).
Watershed & Habitat Restoration
Planning groups will need to consider actions to improve and maintain the ecological health of the planning area. Watershed restoration efforts have been occurring throughout Oregon for many years, providing the habitat needed to support fish, wildlife, and a variety of ecosystem services, such as recycling nutrients back into the soil and therefore, improving water quality.
The Integrated Water Resources Strategy contains four recommended actions to improve or maintain the health of Oregon’s ecosystems: improve watershed health, resiliency, and capacity for natural storage; develop additional instream protections; prevent and eradicate invasive species; and protect and restore instream habitat and access for fish and wildlife. In particular, removing fish passage barriers and screening diversions are key actions to consider. Planning groups can look to the IWRS for other tools to consider during plan development.
Oregon’s network of watershed councils, soil and water conservation districts, and non‐profit conservation organizations are at the forefront of on‐the‐ground restoration projects. Planning groups should consider building upon the expertise and strategic action plans of these local organizations.
Instream Flow Protections
The protection and maintenance of instream flows are necessary to support ecosystem health. Oregon’s instream flow policy in OAR 690‐410‐0030 recognizes that benefits are provided by water remaining where it naturally occurs.
Protecting streamflows that are needed to support public uses is a high priority for the state. The long‐term goal of the state’s policy is to establish an instream water right on every stream, river and lake that can provide significant public benefits. Where streamflows have been depleted to the point that public uses have been impaired, methods to restore the flows should be developed and implemented. These activities must be consistent with the preservation of existing rights, established duties of water, priority dates, and with the principle that all of the waters within the state belong to the public to be used beneficially without waste.
Many watersheds throughout the state contain protections for instream flows through instream water rights, permit conditions, by‐pass conditions, scenic waterway designations, and biological opinions. There are a number of tools available to meet instream flows needs, including streamflow measurement and management, transferring senior water rights instream, leasing water temporary instream, and regulating in favor of senior instream water rights. Streamflow restoration projects should seek cooperation and coordination between instream water interests and out‐of‐stream water users. The Water Resources Department and the Department of Fish and Wildlife have jointly identified priority areas for streamflow restoration throughout the state.
A place‐based plan should identify opportunities for meeting instream flow needs. If instream flow requirements do not exist for a particular stream, river, or lake within the planning area, or if conflicting federal or state targets exist, the planning group may want to consult and seek recommendations from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife on how to proceed in determining the appropriate instream flow. (Refer to IWRS Action 11B for more information on instream protections).
Water Quality Protections
The Integrated Water Resources Strategy contains recommended actions to improve and protect water quality for the benefit of many uses, such as drinking water, ecosystem health, aquatic life, agriculture, and industry.
Some of the state’s water quality priorities are set forth in water quality management plans (e.g., Senate Bill 1010 plans, Forest Practices Act, TMDLs and associated implementation plans) and groundwater protection plans. Ultimately, a place‐based plan should identify opportunities for protecting and improving water quality in the planning area. This could be through the implementation of existing plans, undertaking actions in basin assessments, or developing new tools and collaborative strategies among community partners. Planning groups should consider potential pollutant sources and their potential solutions, such as using low impact development to mitigate stormwater impacts, using community outreach and grants to fix leaky septic systems, and using take‐back programs to avoid toxic and pharmaceutical contamination of water supplies. Below are two examples from the Integrated Water Resources Strategy that demonstrate how to protect and improve water quality and public health:
Planning groups should identify actions to address drinking water quality needs by considering collaborative source water protection strategies and various treatment technologies. Drinking water protection should focus on both large municipal systems, as well as community or individual drinking water systems.
Toxics and Other Pollutants
The IWRS recommends a number of ways to reduce toxics and other pollutants. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and its partners are pursuing many of these recommendations, with implementation being carried out at the local or community level. Planning groups should evaluate what strategies are in place within their community, such as the promotion of pesticide collection events, pharmaceutical take‐back programs, the use of integrated pest management techniques, reducing cyanotoxins in fresh and marine waters, or raising public awareness.
Expanding monitoring efforts to better understand water quantity, water quality, ecological issues, and program effectiveness is a key recommendation of the 2012 IWRS. Planning groups may need to install measurement devices or include monitoring as part of plan development, or the group may recommend increasing monitoring efforts as a management tool. Place‐based planning efforts could help identify additional data needs, which can include monitoring and evaluating: streamflow (e.g. adding real‐time capabilities), groundwater levels, water use, water quality, habitat conditions, and watershed functions. Several types of monitoring needs are described in the 2012 IWRS.
Development of new data or monitoring tools should be compatible with and available to partners, including state agencies. Oregon DEQ has resources available for local entities that are monitoring water quality conditions within their watershed, including directions for quality assurance, sampling, and analysis. The place‐based plan should include a description of any current or proposed monitoring activities occurring in the watershed. Refer to Appendix C for monitoring standards and other related resources.