Clean and Abundant Water
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Photo Credit: J. Maughn
Why Clean Water Is a Priority
Every living thing on Earth relies on clean and abundant water.
- Fun fact:
The Tualatin River watershed contains about 900 miles of waterways that support human lives, local economies, and wildlife.
The Tualatin River is Washington County’s primary source of drinking water, irrigation water, and water for industrial and domestic uses.
Once known as Oregon’s most polluted river, the Tualatin River’s water quality has improved since the 1980s. Maintaining this progress requires continuous effort by residents, businesses, and resource managers.
Washington County is a diverse area consisting of farms, forests, and urban communities. No matter where you live within the watershed, each of us can help keep our waterways clean and flowing.
Water quality is assessed by looking at the following factors:
Sediment is a naturally occurring element of nature, but large quantities of it in water can block sunlight from reaching aquatic plants that require sun to photosynthesize. Sediment can also carry pollutants that attach to the surface of fine dirt particles.
Heat is a form of pollution that harms fish and other lifeforms. Water can be warmed naturally by the sun, but temperature can also be negatively affected by human activity, such as removing vegetation from streambanks or creating barriers that slow the flow of the water.
Nutrients are chemicals that fuel plant and animal life. Too many nutrients in waterways can cause an explosion of growth resulting in harmful algal blooms and eutrophicationAn excessive amount of nutrients in a body of water which causes a dense growth of plant life and deprives aquatic animals of oxygen.. Nitrogen and phosphorus are common pollutants because they are the main ingredients of fertilizer.
Bacteria, such as E. coli, are found in animal and human waste and can cause severe illness and toxic algae. Bacteria can make their way into water sources from livestock operations or degraded septic systems.
- Dissolved oxygen
Dissolved oxygen is a measurement of the amount of oxygen present in a body of water. Just like terrestrialGrowing or living on land, as opposed to air or water. plants and animals, aquatic organisms need to breathe oxygen. Low levels of dissolved oxygen are an indicator of poor water quality.
Where does pollution come from?
Pollution is categorized into two groups based on its source. The methods for controlling each group are unique and present very different challenges.
- Point source
Point source pollution comes from a precise location, such as a pipe that releases waste products from a factory into a body of water. This type of pollution is controlled with a permit system established under the Clean Water Act. Businesses that need to dispose of waste pay a fee to purchase the “right” to release a specific amount of pollution.
- Non-point source
Non-point source pollution comes from a general area, but it is difficult to determine its exact origin. Examples: rainwater from dirty roads or fertilizer that runs off a field.
We primarily target non-point source pollution. Some ways to reduce it:
The water supply:
Everyone is directly affected by our water supply’s accessibility and cost.
Having either too much or too little water can impact farming, residential infrastructure, and stream health.
Water shortages cause hardship for:
On the other hand, flooding results in:
Human activities throughout the watershed, including increased development and certain farming and forestry practices, have combined to create higher peak flows The maximum volume of water flowing during a storm event. that arrive faster and with more force, leading to the degradation of streams.
It is critical we work together as a community to ensure that our water supply meets the needs of humans and wildlife. We can do this by managing our natural resources and the areas we live in, in ways that don’t worsen flooding.