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Clackamas River Water Providers Work Together to Protect Their Source Water

The Clackamas River Water Providers (CRWP) in Oregon is a great example of an innovative coalition of water utilities that (per their motto), are “Working Together to protect and conserve (their) drinking water (source).”

The Clackamas River begins on the slopes of Olallie Butte, a High Cascade volcano and flows 82.7 miles from its headwaters to its confluence with the Willamette River.  The watershed drains more than 940 square miles.  For more than half of its length, it runs through forested areas over rugged terrain.  The lower reaches flow through agricultural and densely populated areas.  The river supplies drinking water to almost 400,000 people.  The river also provides power for the Portland metro area in Oregon via five hydroelectric dams.  Four sections of the river are designated as State Scenic Waterways and 50 miles of it are included in the Federal Wild and Scenic River System.  The watershed also supports naturally spawning anadromous fish, provides important habitat for many wildlife species, and offers many recreational activities such as fishing, hiking, camping, whitewater rafting, kayaking, and hunting.

The purpose of the CRWP is to collectively fund and coordinate source water protection and public outreach and education efforts around watershed issues, drinking water, and water conservation to preserve the Clackamas River as a high quality drinking water source and to minimize future drinking water treatment costs.  By working together, the CRWP is able to fund projects and studies that benefit all the providers but which would be too expensive to do individually. It allows them to foster closer relationships with each other as intra-basin water suppliers, and to speak in one voice when working with other stakeholders.

The Clackamas River watershed is a multi-use watershed with various users/stakeholders. In 2003, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality conducted source water assessments that identified over 1,200 potential contaminant sources from agricultural activities, forestry practices, septic systems, and stormwater outfalls, among others. For this reason, the CRWP implements a Source Water Protection Program and a Public Outreach and Education Program.

Some of the ongoing programs that CRWP conducts include:

  • A variety of teacher, youth education, and community outreach programs;
  • A water conservation rebate program for customers;
  • Point Source and nonpoint source evaluation and mitigation; and
  • Disaster preparedness and response planning.

Some of CRWP’s recent accomplishments include:

  • Creating a GIS/Geo-database and Drinking Water Threat Analysis tool; and
  • Holding two successful pesticide round-up events in 2011.

By using proactive approaches to address water quality issues and potential drinking water impacts, the CRWP strives to use the Clackamas River in the most sustainable way, while keeping water treatment needs at a minimum and ensuring optimum water quality for the communities they serve.

For more information about the CRWP and its activities, visit the web site at:  http://www.clackamasproviders.org/.  For questions, please contact Kim Swan at kims@clackamasproviders.org or (503) 723-3510.