Protecting Oregon's Environment
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Oregon Department of Environmental Quality

Water Quality

Oregon Drinking Water Protection Program

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Partnering with State and Federal Agencies 

DEQ and its partner agency, the Oregon Health Authority Drinking Water Program, develop and implement Oregon's Drinking Water Protection Program. Implementation of a successful program at the state level involves significant coordination with other natural resource agencies. Since the program is voluntary and there are no new regulations associated with drinking water protection in Oregon, state agencies must rely upon integration and coordination of activities with other state and federal programs. Some of these activities are summarized below.

Land Quality Programs

The state's Source Water Assessment database and GIS resources assist other DEQ programs as they identify priority areas. DEQ’s Land Quality Division uses the drinking water data to evaluate cleanups for underground and heating oil storage tanks and dry cleaners, to prioritize household hazardous waste areas, brownfield sites, site assessments, as well as in evaluating composting and solid waste permits.

DEQ and OHA staff contact community water systems and notify them of upcoming household hazardous waste program collection events and prescription drug turn-in days. DEQ and OHA provide these water systems with materials that can be used to inform their customers, rural households and businesses of each event.

Drinking Water Protection Program staff participate as members of the DEQ Toxics Reduction Team. Drinking water protection program input helps identify sources of toxics, selects toxic reduction priorities and prioritizes the statewide human health risks.

Water Quality Programs

DEQ's Water Quality Division uses source water assessment data to create priority lists for programs such as underground injection control, groundwater management area involvement, and to address National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, stormwater, and general permit issues. DEQ developed tools to allow permit writers and the general public to identify drinking water intakes that are located downstream of permitted discharges. DEQ provides background information on identification of sources and pathways as well as drinking water system monitoring data and analysis for DEQ's efforts to deal with priority persistent pollutants and for the agency's water quality standards rulemaking.

DEQ drinking water protection staff coordinate with the agency's TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load) team to ensure that drinking water source areas are included as beneficial uses during development of waste load allocations and implementation plans. DEQ's drinking water, TMDL and 319/nonpoint source programs help identify and implement best management practices for water quality improvements. Examples include evaluating potential sources and providing technical assistance for sites with elevated E. coli bacteria in the South Umpqua subbasin and assisting partners in the Siuslaw Watershed including the City of Florence in water quality protection strategies targeting toxic algae, bacteria, nitrates and other contaminants.

Other State/Federal Agencies
Oregon Health Authority

The Source Water Assessment database and GIS resources also assist other OHA projects, especially in the emergency spill response notification network, plan review process, wellfield analysis determinations, monitoring waivers, water system consumer confidence reporting and continued implementation of the groundwater rule. Using GIS resources, OHA is updating maps that identify sources of naturally-occurring asbestos with respect to source water areas, thus identifying water systems that should conduct asbestos monitoring. Community water systems include a discussion of source water areas and protection strategies in their annual consumer confidence reports. Under the groundwater rule, OHA uses the source water assessment data to identify groundwater sources that are susceptible to viral contamination. Source water protection tools are identified for those water systems where the aquifer is the primary pathway.

Oregon promotes the use of Drinking Water State Revolving Fund monies for drinking water protection grants. OHA and DEQ have been reviewing and ranking applicants for grants since 2009. Many of the applications are for regional projects that involve multiple communities and/or water systems attempting to address a common source water issue or group of issues. Oregon has recommended funding for 18 projects serving 38 public water systems. This amounts to over $675,000 in grants for drinking water source protection projects.

Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development

DEQ and OHA regularly provide input to cities and counties that review their land use plans under Oregon’s comprehensive land-use planning process (“Periodic Review”). This includes detailed information about their water sources, maps of source areas and specific recommendations and guidance for drinking water protection. Groundwater source areas for larger communities can also be designated as “significant resources” under Goal 5 per DLCD’s rules if the community prepares a protection plan and requests that designation.

DEQ and DLCD have model ordinance language that jurisdictions can use to protect drinking water. The model ordinance information is one piece of Oregon’s Water Quality Model Code and Guidebook for small cities that provides land-use planning resources for jurisdictions to use at the local level.

Oregon Department of Forestry and Department of Agriculture

DEQ continues to work with ODA and ODF to promote the need for drinking water protection in Oregon. Source Water Assessment data helps these agencies to incorporate strategies to protect sensitive areas throughout their programs.

DEQ participates in ODF's Private Forests Riparian Function and Stream Temperature (RipStream) Project and other state work groups/committees to improve Oregon Forest Practices Act rules for stream protection to benefit both aquatic habitat and drinking water.

DEQ continues to assist ODA in notifying public water systems about Confined Animal Feeding Operations permit renewals within their respective Drinking Water Source Areas.

In the Umpqua watershed, a public water system, DEQ, ODA and the local soil and water conservation district work with other partners to assess risks and implement focused bacteria and nitrate reduction strategies within a small tributary watershed to benefit downstream drinking water intakes.

Oregon Water Resources Department

The Oregon Water Resources Department, DEQ, ODA and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife are responsible for developing Oregon’s Integrated Water Resource Strategy. The drinking water team submitted data on drinking water system needs for this effort including a list of water system sources that had to be closed the past five years due to water quantity or quality issues.

OHA continues to work with the Oregon Water Resources Department and various consultants to encourage development of source water protection in conjunction with aquifer storage and recovery projects. Joint efforts include presentations associated with ASR sustainability; reviewing proposed ASR projects during the limited license and permit application processes; and reviewing license/permit modifications and/or extensions. OHA also provides input to WRD as it develops a water and monitoring well data standard that will specify a common method for locating and identifying water and monitoring wells in the state. 

Oregon State Marine Board

DEQ provides drinking water intake locations with associated river-mile information to Oregon State Marine Board to evaluate and prioritize outreach activities for the board's Clean Marina and Clean Boater programs. Many Oregon rivers used for recreation and boating also provide drinking water to downstream communities. The state has not done an analysis for the sources of contamination, but 17 public water systems have had petroleum products detected in their drinking water. Source Water Assessment data show there are also 56 surface water public water systems with potential boat-use areas upstream.

Oregon Office of the State Fire Marshal

DEQ works with the State Fire Marshal’s office to create a GIS spatial data set of the Hazardous Substance Information Survey database. The HSIS information is available to the Drinking Water Protection Program for spatial analysis of these potential contaminant sites for inclusion in source water assessments or for other technical assistance work to reduce risk of drinking water contamination.

Oregon Department of Geology & Mineral Industries

DEQ uses DOGAMI landslide data and LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) imagery to evaluate risks to drinking water intakes. This data and GIS mapping will be used in future assessments of earthquake and climate change risks to public water systems.

Oregon Business Development Department

Drinking Water Protection staff work with OBDD’s Business, Innovation & Trade Division to identify and prioritize redevelopment of brownfields within drinking water source areas. A brownfield is property where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by actual or perceived environmental contamination. Redeveloping brownfields promotes economic development while also protecting environmental and human health.

U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management

DEQ continues to work with federal agencies to raise the profile of the need for drinking water protection in Oregon. For example, DEQ and other water quality programs submitted comments toward the BLM Western Region Plan Revisions, which would have affected management decisions on 2.5 million acres of forest and rangeland in Oregon. DEQ also provides source water assessment data to help incorporate protection strategies into their respective programs.

Source Water Assessment Data Availability and Use

DEQ is improving access to Source Water Assessment data. Maps and downloadable statewide GIS shapefiles of drinking water source area coverages and identified potential sources of contamination are available on DEQ's Drinking Water Protection website. Drinking water source areas can now also be identified (and selected as a search criteria) for both DEQ's Facility Profiler (a location-based system showing DEQ permit holders and cleanup sites) and DEQ's LASAR (Laboratory Analytical Storage and Recovery for air and water quality monitoring data) database. Source water assessment data is also available from other Oregon websites, including the OSU Institute for Natural Resources Oregon Explorer and the Oregon Geospatial Data Clearinghouse.


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For more information about DEQ's Drinking Water Protection Program please see the Staff Contacts and Resources.

Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
Headquarters: 700 NE Multnomah Street, Suite 600, Portland, OR 97232
Phone: 503-229-5696 or toll free in Oregon 1-800-452-4011
Oregon Telecommunications Relay Service: 1-800-735-2900  FAX: 503-229-6124

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is a regulatory agency authorized to protect Oregon's environment by
the State of Oregon and the Environmental Protection Agency.

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