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*WaterWatch of Oregon

Restoring and protecting flows in Oregon’s rivers for the fish, wildlife and people who depend on them.
213 SW Ash, Suite 208, Portland, OR 97204
Phone: (503) 295-4039 | Fax: (503) 295-2791 |
What does a $100 contribution do for this organization?
A $100 donation would improve the capacity of WaterWatch to negotiate policies to protect Oregon's Rivers, and educate the public and lawmakers about the public benefits of healthy rivers.
Why does this donor support this organization?
"WaterWatch is a group whose courage and dedication has made a real difference to the health of Oregon's rivers. It's not easy to call into question long-standing abuses of Oregon's rivers, or practices that hurt our rivers in the name of economy. But WaterWatch has done this consistently and unflinchingly. I'm happy and proud to work with a group I admire so much."
How do volunteers make a difference for this organization?
Volunteers are very helpful for designing and completing projects that our limited staff do not usually have time to do. WaterWatch can especially use the help of volunteers that are skilled in website design, desktop publishing, event coordination, GIS, and legal professionals. WaterWatch is always grateful to receive in-kind donations of river photography to use in our publications.

In the late 1970s, a pioneering group of Rogue River anglers set out to restore streams for salmon and steelhead. Their work sparked a movement that changed water law and river conservation across Oregon and the West. As they worked, these visionary anglers recognized that without enough water instream, all of their labor would be futile. Yet, across Oregon, more water often flowed in irrigation canals than in adjacent streams. The situation was not unique to Oregon. Across the West, rivers ran dry under antiquated water laws that failed to consider meaningfully the needs of rivers, fish, wildlife or the public interest in water. To address the dramatic imbalance between private and public uses of water, Tom and Audrey Simmons founded WaterWatch of Oregon in 1985.

WaterWatch was the first organization in the West to focus solely on the protection and restoration of streamflows. Since 1985 WaterWatch has pursued a single clear mission: To protect and restore streamflows in our rivers for fish, wildlife, and the people who depend on healthy rivers.

Wood River

The results have been impressive. Every waterway in Oregon is touched by WaterWatch’s successes. WaterWatch is proud to have drafted and passed the 1987 Oregon Instream Water Rights Act, the first legislation in the country to give water rights for fish and wildlife equal standing with those of irrigation and industry. Today, over 1400 instream water rights across Oregon protect streamflows for fish, wildlife and water quality. This law also sparked the water trust movement by creating, for the first time, a legal vehicle to purchase or lease water and place it instream. Using this and other laws, WaterWatch has negotiated the largest instream transfers of water in the history of the West on the Rogue (800 cubic feet per second), Clackamas (640 cfs) and Sandy Rivers (600 cfs).

Other reforms secured by WaterWatch have fundamentally changed water allocation and management in Oregon. Successes include state programs that prevent the over allocation of Oregon’s rivers and aquifers, require measurement of water use and protect peak and ecological streamflows. WaterWatch’s advocacy resulted in a unique water mitigation program that protects streamflows on the Deschutes and Metolius Rivers from upstream groundwater development. In the Rogue Basin, WaterWatch’s Free the Rogue Campaign led the most successful river restoration campaign in the nation, resulting in the removal of four major dams and the protection of streamflows for some of the most important anadromous fish runs on the west coast. In court, WaterWatch has secured water for threatened coho salmon and bald eagles, protected water needed by migrating fish in the Columbia River and, significantly, reformed municipal water development to protect imperiled fish populations.

WaterWatch is now working on the removal of two fish killing dams, Fielder and Wimer, on Evans Creek, a tributary to the Rogue. Both state and federal agencies have identified Evans Creek, and restoring access to quality fish habitat in its upper reaches, as important to the recovery of southern Oregon coho salmon. Just last year, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife officials ranked these two dams among the state's top ten most significant fish barriers on Oregon's 2013 Statewide Fish Passage Priority List.

Evan Cr Dams

WaterWatch’s programs have protected and restored literally millions of acre-feet of water in Oregon’s waterways. When it comes to water law and policy, WaterWatch is widely recognized by relevant agencies, decision makers and water users as the voice for rivers and ecologically balanced polices. The organization’s track record, expertise and credibility within these circles make WaterWatch well positioned to address the lack of sustainability in municipal water law and practice in Oregon’s largest cities.

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