PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — For a state that is known for its rainy weather and plentiful streams of water, it may come as a surprise to learn that many Oregonians are facing a water insecurity, according to a new report from the Secretary of State’s Office.
The findings from the report reveal there are systemic issues limiting state officials from protecting water access for a number of communities. The report noted that Oregon is not adequately prepared to deal with climate change, the allocation of surface and groundwater, or the presence of contaminants. With that, auditors warn more communities will likely face water insecurity in the coming years.
“Not only are many families in Oregon dealing with water insecurity today, many more are at high-risk of becoming water insecure in the very near future,” said Secretary of State Shemia Fagan. “What’s shocking about this report is it shows that we don’t have a plan to address the problem. So today, I am offering the Oregon Legislature and Governor Kotek a road map to create a statewide plan to address water security in Oregon.”
Although Oregon has made some improvements in water planning and data collection, auditors say the necessary resources and guidance aren’t available. Further, auditors allege current policies may even prevent the state from closing these gaps to ensure access to water to all Oregonians.
Considering this, Fagan is calling on state leaders to rework the water governance model to focus on protecting water security and ensuring it fits residents’ needs.
Auditors recommend the following changes be made to avoid a potential water “crisis.”
- Develop regional water planning framework
- Develop statewide priorities centered on water security shared by state leadership and agencies to guide holistic and inclusive water decisions
- Connect an actionable and comprehensive state water plan to a regional planning framework to guide water decisions and policy development
- Convene a formal planning and coordination body with diverse and balanced representation to guide the statewide plan and support regional planning needs
- Define the state’s overall role and specific agency roles within a regional framework to support effective planning and implementation and avoid overlap and gaps in service
- Increase public engagement and incorporate more diverse and balanced community feedback and needs into statewide and regional water decisions
- Enhance public awareness and understanding of the state’s water challenges
- Prioritize the human right to water and explore policy options to better protect community and ecosystem health
- Improve water data to support strategic decision making
- Adopt a strategic approach to water funding and establish a consistent funding base to support desired outcomes
- Clearly support state agencies tasked with carrying out regulatory responsibilities
- Integrate Oregon’s federally recognized Tribes as full and equal partners into state and regional water decision-making