Water quality team reflects on milestones while charting course ahead

The Oregon Environmental Quality Commission made headlines recently with a landmark decision to grant additional environmental protections to Crater and Waldo lakes, known for their clear, pristine water. The commission’s approval of the Outstanding Resource Water designation was the end result of months of work by DEQ’s Water Quality Program, from thorough research to public outreach.

Yet it was just one of a number of high-profile successes for the program, which is responsible for ensuring that the people of Oregon – as well as fish and wildlife – enjoy clean, healthy water. Others include publishing the Integrated Report, which maps the water quality status of Oregon’s rivers, lakes, estuaries and coastal waters, and loaning millions of dollars to local governments at below market rates to improve wastewater treatment.

We often take clean water for granted, expecting safe drinking water when we turn on our kitchen faucet, not worrying when we cast a fly in a mountain stream or jump off a dock into a lake. But keeping that water clean and safe requires a ton of work and oversight by DEQ.

This work and much more is catalogued in the recently completed “2021 Water Quality Program Plan.” In addition to highlight successes of the past year, it lays out in detail what the program hopes to achieve this year.

“It is important to me to let Oregonians know about all the hard work DEQ performed during unprecedented times in 2020,” says Justin Green, DEQ’s water quality administrator. “We made huge strides,” including updating and modernizing water quality permits, and obtaining EPA approval for the Integrated Report.

Here are some additional highlights from the report:

Provided technical assistance to communities upended by the 2020 wildfires and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Signed 21 loan agreements under the Clean Water State Revolving Fund – the most in 10 years.

Collaborated with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to develop clear, protective and implementable aluminum criteria for Oregon waters

Safely collected 5,000 water samples for testing, resulting in 30,000 analyses, despite pandemic-related restrictions.

Read the full report.

–Harry Esteve, communications manager

Published by Oregon Department of Environmental Quality

DEQ’s mission is to be a leader in restoring, maintaining and enhancing the quality of Oregon’s air, land and water.