Water Quality

Improving water quality throughout Oregon not only helps protect drinking water, fish habitat and the environment in general, but can also boost Oregon’s economy. A clean and more dependable water supply is good for industry, promotes healthier commercial and recreational fisheries, and encourages tourism. Clean waterways also help ensure that Oregonians of all ages have safe places to swim and play.

DEQ coordinates its work to protect and improve Oregon’s water by following the watershed approach.

What is a watershed?

DEQ uses the term “watershed” to describe an area of land that contains related waterways. These watersheds may be traditional basins, areas that drain into a single waterway or an area that contains similar waterways, such as a group of coastal rivers.

What is the "watershed approach"?

The watershed approach is a way to work cooperatively to deal with the many factors that influence water quality in a single watershed. This geographic focus helps DEQ coordinate internally and with stakeholders to effectively identify and address the most pressing needs of each watershed.

Specifically, that means:

  • Combining the expertise of DEQ’s 17 water quality subprograms to ensure that DEQ’s resources and scientific information are put to use effectively.
  • Consulting with local, state and federal agencies, as well as local interest groups and watershed councils, to help DEQ identify problems and solutions. The watershed approach allows opportunities for direct, interactive feedback between DEQ and its many stakeholders.  

Adaptive management

The watershed approach follows the principle of adaptive management, which uses the best information available to take action on immediate problems. It also involves taking any new information to improve practices over time. This “continuous improvement” process allows DEQ to:

  • Share its findings with affected stakeholders and residents, so all parties learn how to better manage our watersheds.
  • Prioritize immediate and long-term actions that can be taken in a particular basin or watershed, through DEQ’s Water Quality Status and Acton Plan documents. These actions will emphasize working closer with all affected parties to identify goals and measure success.
  • Encourage all involved to be flexible and open to new ways of solving problems (including voluntary collaboration where possible) and avoiding duplication of efforts.
  • Regularly assess the situation in each basin, to determine in an outcome-based approach what’s working and what’s not.