The water that hits your property flows downhill and is part of a larger area, known as a watershed, which drains to a stream, river, wetland, or lake. Activities on all of the properties in a watershed affect water quantity and quality.
Watersheds come in all shapes and sizes. All of the land in Multnomah County eventually drains to the Columbia River via the Willamette River, the Sandy River, the Tualatin River, or directly. There are hundreds of small streams and creeks in the rural areas of our county that drain to these rivers.
|Water quality problems and impacts in rural Multnomah County|
|Warm water temperatures||Lack of shade, in-stream ponds||Increases susceptibility to disease, reduces growth, decreases spawning success in trout and salmon.|
|High fecal bacteria counts||Animal waste, failing septic systems||Ingestion by humans can cause gastrointestinal illness. Children are especially vulnerable.|
|Low dissolved oxygen levels||Lack of shade, sediment, high nutrient levels||Very low levels affect survival of fish and other aquatic life; low levels increase susceptibility to toxins.|
|High nutrient levels||Runoff, over fertilizing, failing septic systems||Causes low dissolved oxygen levels.|
|Toxics||Pesticide contaminated sediment in runoff||Pose a risk to human health through contact and fish consumption, to livestock through water consumption, and to the development and survival of fish and other aquatic life.|
We all live downstream, and we all rely on water. To make sure this resource is safe and available for people, fish, and wildlife, water is a highly regulated resource. Ultimately the responsibility for improving water quality rests with everyone who lives, works, or recreates in the watershed.
Runoff can carry pollutants to streams, rivers, wetlands, ponds, and lakes. The Federal Clean Water Act requires that surface waters meet water quality standards, and a plan to clean up the water must be developed and implemented if standards are not met. In Multnomah County most of the surface water does not meet the standards.
Different land uses have different impacts on water quality. In rural Multnomah County the land use is agriculture, forestry, residential, or some combination of these.
To provide for the best possible use of water resources in this state, we must strike a balance between protection and human use. This is the purpose of Oregon’s regulations governing activities in waterways, wetlands, and their riparian areas. When planning a project in wetlands or waterways, you should check first with the Multnomah County Land Use Planning (503-988-3043) and the Department of State Lands (DSL, 503-378-3805) to determine what, if any, regulations may apply. Staff will be able to help you understand the range of permits that may be required for your water-related project. If you are unsure about the need for a permit, your regional DSL coordinator is available to provide guidance. You can also find more detailed information on types of permits on the DSL website at: http://www.oregon.gov/DSL.