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).

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

EQC decision on ORW petition at their April 20, 2016 meeting

The Environmental Quality Commission granted a citizen petition for rulemaking to designate the North Fork Smith River and its tributaries ORWs. This means that DEQ will initiate rulemaking proceedings on the rule amendments proposed by the petition, which include policies to maintain and protect the existing water quality and ecological values of these waters. The rulemaking process will include an opportunity for public comment on the proposed rule language.
In addition, the EQC directed DEQ to apply the technical analyses from a 1995 ORW Implementation Issue Paper during the rulemaking process.

Petition documents

North Fork Smith River


For more information about the petition or the rulemaking, contact Aron Borok at 503-229-5050 (toll-free in Oregon at 800-452-4011, ext. 5050).

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.