Why is it Important?
Clean, reliable, and affordable freshwater is an essential ingredient to our quality of life. It is vital for the health of our farms and ecosystems and a growing source of competitive advantage for our businesses. Compared to many states, we are blessed with an abundance of water resources. We have sound land management practices, as well as a progressive water code. But the supply of water varies across our state and the water supply, though renewable, is finite.
The Oregon Business Plan Vision for Water
The Oregon Business Plan is calling for a new focus on the productivity of water. Improving water productivity means obtaining more value from each drop of water—whether used by farmers, communities, business or ecosystems. In Oregon, improvement of water productivity means using our finite but renewable water supply to produce more food, enhance economic opportunities, secure our quality of life, and restore ecosystem services. This vision relies on the following guiding principles:
- Water is local and public so that local communities are empowered.
- Flexibility and adaptability in institutional approaches to water management is fundamental.
- Participation, exchange and debate will foster new ideas and improve efficiency.
- Cross-scale issues must be understood, recognized and addressed.
Where we stand today
Oregon is making some progress in raising awareness of water issues since the 2008 Statewide Roundtable discussions, and the Oregon Integrated Water Resources Strategy which was undertaken by state government in 2009. The challenges are complex and will require a perspective that takes into account a long term planning and implementation horizon. This Initiative has been launched to maintain this perspective and build dialogue and partnerships for solutions. On one particular aspect of water policy-the use of the Columbia River for irrigation in Eastern Oregon is an immediate priority. This issue has been a hot button in the Oregon legislature for years but in 2012 Governor Kitzhaber appointed the Oregon Solutions Columbia River-Umatilla Solutions project to design actionable solutions that will give farmers access to more water while benefiting fish and in-stream uses.
Oregon Business Plan Strategy
Implementing the vision will rely on five key strategies (the five “I”s of water management):
- Information. Provide access to information essential to adaptive management, and to education prerequisite to informed public and user dialogue.
- Innovation. Facilitate development of and access to practices and technology as the basis for successful adaptive management of water.
- Investment. Generate and deploy in a timely manner all resources to implement policy and technology.
- Incentives. Encourage and facilitate use of policies that support water productivity, including but not limited to reuse, conservation, groundwater storage, demand management and markets.
- Institutions. Coordinate management of water at and across the federal, state and local levels, as well as across user sectors at the basin scale.
Priority Action Items
The top near-term action is to implement strategies that will give farmers in Northeast Oregon increased access to water from the Columbia River for irrigation, while benefiting fish and other in-stream uses. The Governor launched the Columbia River-Umatilla Solutions Project in the Summer of 2012 to achieve this end. We hope to see a plan, agreed to by key stakeholders, by the December, 3 2012 Oregon Leadership Summit.
For the long term, the priority is to get the component pieces and players in place to allow movement of resources and ideas consistent with an enabling regulatory framework.
- Develop institutional framework and partnerships needed for integrated water resource management, with appropriate integrated water basin authorities within a state-led framework.
- Establish a system to provide access to Oregon water-related information, and identify sponsors and leadership, stable long-term funding, and authority for management, maintenance, and operations.
- Plan for prioritized water innovation and infrastructure investments and monitored results. The backlog of upgrades needed for water infrastructure (built, renovated, and natural) to provide valued services under current conditions is substantial. We face a transition period during which public and/or private seed capital is required to conduct research, planning, development and proof of concept pilot projects such that upgrades will support sustainable water management into the future.
Water Policy in the News
Northeastern Oregon’s farming region will get injection of Columbia River water to pump up depleted aquifers
The Oregonian. September 30, 2011