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Growth Management-oriented Water Conservation and Reuse in Oregon: Operationalizing Integrated Watershed and Water Resources Management

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  • Oregon’s largest metropolitan region, Greater Portland, is home to a diverse array of water utilities though few have sufficiently robust water reuse and conservation goals. In determining the most beneficial way to allocate water-related public goods and natural resource management services, Oregonians are adapting to stronger legal standards among other principles such as sustainable development, public participation, and more. Despite the climate of uncertainties, the region is experimenting with full-cost accounting for water consumption, storm/wastewater assimilation, and ecosystem recovery. For over 30 years the Portland metropolitan area has experienced different urbanization patterns and regional management regimes while impacting the ecology of multiple watersheds within the Lower Willamette River Estuary (and Columbia River from the Sandy River sub-basin to the Columbia’s confluence with the Willamette). Focused on lessons learned from the 2004 Portland metro area Updated Regional Water Supply Plan, water purveyor targets for infrastructure connectivity, demand management, and new supplies are compared to that of other regions. From a growth management perspective, this paper analyzes Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) as both a regulatory process as well as an intermodal water system infrastructure policy. Academic findings indicate that non-potable water reclamation and reuse options, nodal water storage and distribution infrastructure, systems of water pricing and land use permitting/zoning codes/comprehensive plans, and demand management should receive greater attention in the 21st century. This paper also offers criteria to aid in the analytical evaluation of Oregon’s transition towards sustainable IWRM. Year by year, the commitment to IWRM (or “getting the right flows to the right places at the right time”) can be measured by the following: 1) Increased application of water reclamation and conservation programs; 2) Reduced consumption of potable water by shifting to non-potable water for certain industrial and municipal, agricultural, and community system demands; and 3) Improved ecological in-stream flows and conditions. Federal and state regulatory frameworks (both requirements like NEPA, ESA, and CWA as well as other watershed and public involvement guidelines like Statewide Goals 1-6 and 11) are explored by the author and local practitioners to generate recommendations for future studies and greater IWRM policy implementation improvements in Oregon.
  • Presented at The Oregon Water Conference, May 24-25, 2011, Corvallis, OR.
  • KEYWORDS: Demand management, Water reclamation, Integrated watershed and water resources management, Non-potable, Infrastructure optimization, Salmon and steelhead recovery, Watershed and floodplain restoration, TMDL, Water recycling and reuse
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