New Oregon Law to Fund Water Storage Studies

Gov. Ted Kulongoski signed the Agriculture and Community Water Act of 2008 (SB 1069), which establishes a statewide grant program to study water storage, reuse, and conservation. The grants will help Oregon develop water storage projects that will be crucial for areas such as the Umatilla Basin, which has sustained a critical water shortage.

Senate Bill 1069 directs $1.75 million in feasibility study grants for communities across the state – making it the first statewide effort to solve critical water shortages threatening so many communities.

It also provides $750,000 for a project called the Umatilla Basin Aquifer Recovery project. In this project, the Water Resources Department will conduct a detailed aquifer recharge feasibility study in the Umatilla Basin. The study will investigate the potential for withdrawing surface water from the Columbia and Umatilla rivers in winter and delivering that water for storage in below-ground aquifers for use during the irrigation season. The project will identify infrastructure necessary for implementation. The project will actually pilot test potential underground storage sites.

"I want to emphasize that this is only a first step," continued the governor. "The next steps will be determined by the study and will require that we continue to work together across diverse interests, just as we did to make this first step a reality."

Currently the Echo Meadows water storage project outside of Hermiston is testing the ability to recharge an aquifer by diverting water from the Umatilla River to the meadow. The aquifer is then recharging nearby wells and will also aid in summer water flows into the lower Umatilla River. The project is an example of the kind of water storage effort that could be developed with the new grants.

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