DEQ Report is Wake-Up Call that Healthy Forests are Necessary for Clean Drinking Water

July 6th, 2010

Kavita Heyn, 503-827-8648 or cell, 971-409-8779

(Portland) - American Rivers highlighted a report released today by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s Drinking Water Protection Program as proof that Coast Range communities need healthy forests if they want clean drinking water.

The report entitled “Turbidity Analysis for Oregon Public Drinking Water Systems: Water Quality in Coast Range Drinking Water Source Areas” available at http://www.deq.state.or.us/wq/dwp/dwp.htm, assessed trends in turbidity for eight communities: Arch Cape, Astoria, Carlton, Fall City, Forest Grove, Hillsboro-Cherry Grove, and Siletz.

The report found increasing turbidity trends in five of the drinking water source areas, and suggests that these high turbidity levels may be the result of both landscape effects (such as storms and landslides) and land use activities such as logging and road building. The eight communities are all located in predominantly forested watersheds that have experienced several decades or more of logging, including clear-cuts. Some of the communities, such as Siletz, have been forced to develop new off-stream water storage systems at significant cost as a result of sediment clogging and damaging the water intake.

Two of the communities featured in the report, Astoria and Forest Grove, own their own forested water supply areas and manage them sustainably. The report found that Forest Grove is experiencing decreasing trends in turbidity. The report concludes that “watershed protection and restoration activities can reduce unacceptable levels of sediment deposited into public water system sources and can reduced the cost of drinking water treatment”. 

 “The report is a wake-up call that logging and other land uses such as roads, can impair the natural water filtration system forests provide, with significant costs to communities, We applaud DEQ for its attention to this issue,” said Kavita Heyn of American Rivers

“A forest is the best kind of water treatment plant, and forest protection and restoration should be a priority for communities looking to ensure a cost-effective, reliable clean water supply,” said Heyn.

Forests provide important drinking water services, acting like sponges to store water, and filtering waste and pollutants. Many communities across the country, from New York to Portland are successfully protecting and managing their watersheds for future water needs, as highlighted by American Rivers in the report “Natural Security: How Sustainable Water Strategies are Preparing Communities for a Changing Climate”.

Climate change is expected to alter the amount and timing of rainfall and stream flows in the Pacific Northwest. Likely impacts in coastal communities include heavier winter rainfall, and subsequently more stormwater runoff from surrounding lands. Stormwater pours into streams and rivers, bringing with it sediment from clear-cut areas.  A cost-effective way for communities to prepare for climate impacts and reduce the threat of pollution is the protection of forests that serve as drinking water sources.  American Rivers plans to work with communities in Oregon’s Coast Range to initiate and support efforts to protect forested watersheds.


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About American Rivers

About American Rivers

American Rivers protects wild rivers, restores damaged rivers, and conserves clean water for people and nature. Since 1973, American Rivers has protected and restored more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and an annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® campaign. Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 200,000 members, supporters, and volunteers.

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