Water Quality

Willamette River Report Card Water quality information supplied by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s Laboratory and Environmental Assessment Program in Hillsboro through its own studies and working with sister agencies provided data for several key environmental indicators as part of the Willamette River Report Card released in December 2015 by the Meyer Memorial Trust. In general, the river receives a B- grade, with most indicators showing a worsening trend from upstream to downstream. The report card also highlights some areas of the river that need more attention.

The Meyer Memorial Trust’s Willamette River Initiative produced the Willamette River Report Card with the help of the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science and technical experts from more than 20 agencies and organizations. The Report Card is designed to inspire elected officials, advocates and citizens to come together to shape the next generation of improvements to the Willamette River as the valley grapples with a warming climate, reduced snowpacks and pressure from a growing population.

The river was evaluated on five categories of river health:

  • Water quality, which includes river water temperature and the level and health risk of toxics;
  • Fish and wildlife, based on the status of bald eagles, juvenile Chinook salmon and other native fish species;
  • Habitat, based on two important river features: intact floodplain forest and complex and changing river channels;
  • Flow, the measure of how much water is flowing through the river compared to historical flows; and
  • People and the river, including fish consumption advisories, the health of Tribal fisheries, the presence of fecal bacteria and the occurrence of harmful algal blooms.

DEQ programs help address Oregon water quality challenges every day. The lab works to document water quality problems and trends in the state through its monitoring and assessment programs. DEQ water quality programs based out of the agency’s headquarters and regional offices address overall policies and in-the-field problems:

  • DEQ-issued water quality permits require pollutant sources to monitor discharges and not exceed certain pollutants limits.
  • Total Maximum Daily Loads set pollution load limits for various rivers throughout the state.
  • DEQ’s Toxics Program works closely with other agencies and communities on the Pesticide Stewardship Program to reduce the amount of harmful pesticides that eventually enter waterways from farms, orchards and forests.
  • DEQ’s 303(d) program identifies waterway segments that are “impaired” and require more direct attention.
  • DEQ’s Non-Point Source program assists watershed councils, communities and other groups on projects that help reduce the amount of pollutants getting into water bodies.
  • DEQ’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund provides low-interest loans to communities needing to upgrade their antiquated sewage and wastewater treatment systems.


Information about DEQ’s data contribution to the report card project


Michael Mulvey
DEQ Water Quality Monitoring