Water Quality

​Outstanding Resource Waters are high quality waters that constitute an outstanding state resource due to their extraordinary water quality or ecological values, or where special protection is needed to maintain critical habitat areas. Oregon’s ORW policy, part of the state’s antidegradation policy, was adopted by the Environmental Quality Commission in 1991 and may be found at OAR 340-041-0004(8).

Waldo Lake and Crater Lake

On Jan. 21, 2021,​ the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission voted to designate Crater Lake and Waldo Lake as Outstanding Resource Waters in the state of Oregon. The designation provides special protections to maintain the exceptional water quality, ecological, cultural and recreation values of these lakes. This is only the second time that the commission has granted this special status to waters in Oregon.

News release: Oregon Environmental Quality Commission designates Crater Lake and Waldo Lake as Outstanding Resource Waters

For more information, please also see the Outstanding Resource Waters Rulemaking page.

DEQ accepted public comments on the proposed rules to designate Waldo Lake and Crater Lake as Outstanding Resource Waters from July 15 to Aug. 28, 2020. There were 730 comments received from the public, non-profit organizations, and government entities. Nearly all of the comments supported the ORW designation.

In April 2019, the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission and DEQ received a petition from the Northwest Environmental Defense Center on behalf of several organizations, requesting the commission to designate Waldo Lake and its associated wetlands as Outstanding Resource Waters of Oregon. DEQ solicited public comment on whether to initiate rulemaking proceedings or deny the petition. 

In July 2019, the Environmental Quality Commission directed DEQ to initiate rulemaking in response to the petition for Waldo Lake and also to include Crater Lake in the ORW rulemaking.

North Fork Smith River

In July 2017, the EQC voted to designate the North Fork Smith River and its tributaries as ORWs and to establish policies to protect the water quality and outstanding values of these waters. These are Oregon’s first ORWs. DEQ led the rulemaking at EQC’s request after the commission granted a petition proposing the designation. EPA approved the ORW designation in October 2017.
The North Fork Smith River begins in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness in southern Oregon and is a federally-designated Wild and Scenic River. Outstanding values of the North Fork Smith River include their exceptional clarity and color, valuable habitat for endangered populations of Coho salmon, several rare wetland plant species and other fish and wildlife and for unique recreational opportunities, particularly for whitewater rafting and kayaking.

Related documents and links

crater lake


For more information about the petition or the rulemaking, contact Debra Sturdevant503-229-6691 

Keep up-to-date 

Stay informed about the Outstanding Resource Water rulemaking by clicking the green envelope to be added to DEQ’s mailing list for water quality standards. DEQ will also add new information about the ORW rulemaking to this website at key milestones.