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It’s time to make the tough water decisions

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Monday, October 01, 2007

AUGUST'S ARTICLE [THE FIGHT FOR WATER] offers the clearest depiction yet of Oregon’s growing water supply predicament — and should be required reading for anyone interested in Oregon’s future. As I said in my Oregon Water Handbook, “to make a long story short, Oregon’s out of easy water.” Yet no one seems to be able to articulate — let alone make — the hard water decisions required for us to avoid a prolonged and possibly searing water crisis.

This is in stark contrast to 1909, when after years of effort, a consortium of Oregon interests came together to support enactment of the Oregon Water Code, the law that declared water from all sources belonged to the people of Oregon, and warranted careful management. That the Oregon Conservation Commission, the Portland Board of Trade, the State Grange, and the Oregon Irrigation Society found common ground to lobby hard for such a far-reaching law speaks volumes about how critically Oregonians once regarded water — and volumes about leadership that seems sorely lacking today.

While it’s nice the 2007 Legislature scraped up $750,000 to look into Oregon’s water future, that’s peanuts compared to the $5-plus billion California has invested in its water projects, or the $200 million Washington recently authorized for water supply issues. This shortsighted approach to Oregon’s water future makes clear that Oregon just doesn’t take water seriously. While that’s not likely to change in the next couple of years, I still find myself dreaming we might mark the centennial of Oregon’s water code with some meaningful level of investment by the 2009 Legislature.

Rick Bastasch
Author, Oregon Water Handbook, Salem


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