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.
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. No matter where you live within the watershed, each of us can help keep our waterways clean and flowing.
Our actions impact the health and availability of water.
Water is a renewable resourceRenewable Resource A natural resource that can be naturally replaced and replenished if managed properly.. This means it can last indefinitely – if managed sustainably. With good management, the right amount of water is available at the right time.
Without strong conservation practices, some places experience drought while other places experience flooding. There are many ways communities can be designed to conserve water while we do our part at home.
Climate change is making it more important than ever to conserve water.
A rapidly changing climate affects when and how much water is available on the landscape.
It's expected that our region will experience longer, more intense periods of drought. The area will likely receive less snowpack in the future which will strain the summer water supply. Too much water in the winter can also be a problem. Human activity has caused higher peak flowsPeak Flows The maximum volume of water flowing. that arrive faster and with more force, leading to the degradation of streams.
These changes to our water supply impact everybody: residential communities, farms, industry, and wildlife.
Water shortages cause hardship for:
On the other hand, flooding results in:
Water quality is closely linked to the amount and movement of water.
Where does pollution come from?
There are two broad types of pollution. Controlling each type of pollution requires a unique approach.
- Point source
Point source pollution comes from a precise location, such as a pipe that releases factory waste products into a river. This type of pollution is controlled with a permit system established under the Clean Water Act. These permits limit the amount and kind of pollution that can be discharged.
This permitting system is not perfect. Communities with aging infrastructure, like sewers and water treatment plants, can experience extreme instances of pollution discharge due to heavy rain or system failures.
- Non-point source
Non-point source pollution comes from a general area. It can be difficult to determine its exact origin. Examples: rainwater flowing across dirty roads or fertilizer that runs off a field.
Tualatin SWCD primarily works to reduce non-point source pollution. Some ways of doing this are keeping livestock out of waterways, installing rain gardens, and avoiding harvesting trees along streams or on steep slopes.
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 need 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 activities such as removing streamside vegetation or discharging heated water into waterways.
Nutrients are chemicals that fuelFuel Human-built structures and plant material that can burn during a wildfire. plant and animal life. Too many nutrients in waterways can cause an explosion of growth resulting in harmful algal blooms and eutrophicationEutrophication When waters are depleted of dissolved oxygen due to excess nutrient pollution and algal growth.. 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 terrestrialTerrestrial Growing 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.