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Groundwater Protection in Oregon

Groundwater is vital to the public health, economy, and environment of Oregon. Oregon's groundwater has many uses, including drinking water and other household uses, irrigation for crops, numerous industrial and commercial uses, and base flow to streams. In Oregon, DEQ has regulatory authority and works in partnership with other local and state agencies and tribal governments for groundwater protection.

The Oregon Health Authority recommends people test well water regularly to protect their health.

Current opportunities

Free well water testing - Southern Deschutes County

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is offering free well water testing in southern Deschutes County as part of a groundwater quality study. DEQ will test wells in spring 2024.

DEQ staff will collect well water before any treatment or filtration and analyze the samples for chemicals that pose a potential health risk, as well as for several common water quality indicators.

Tests include: nitrate/nitrite, arsenic, pesticides and herbicides (legacy and current use), hardness (common ion concentrations), primary and trace metals, coliform bacteria and E. coli, pharmaceuticals and personal care products, and volatile organic compounds.

Sample results will be publicly available, but landowner information will not be included in the public database.

Call or email DEQ to be considered for the study: or 503-693-5736.

DEQ will send you a form with questions about your well. Wells are selected based on location and characteristics. Participants must have spigot access to their well water before any treatment or filtration occurs.

Download the permission slip: This form describes the testing in more detail and includes a release to grant access for the purposes of conducting the sampling.

Map of the southern Deschutes County study area:

map of the test area

Pruebas gratuitas de agua de pozo - Condado del Sur de Deschutes

El Departamento de Calidad Ambiental de Oregon está ofreciendo pruebas gratuitas de agua de pozo en el área sureño del condado de Deschutes como parte de un estudio de agua subterránea. El DEQ estará probando agua de poso en primavera de 2024.

El personal del DEQ recogerá el agua del pozo antes de que se realice un tratamiento o filtración y analizará las muestras en busca de sustancias químicas que supongan un riesgo potencial para la salud, así como de varios indicadores comunes de calidad del agua.

Las pruebas incluyen: nitrato/nitrito, arsénico, pesticidas y herbicidas (uso antiguo y actual), dureza (concentraciones de iones comunes), metales primarios y trazas, bacterias coliformes y E. coli, productos farmacéuticos y de cuidado personal, y compuestos orgánicos volátiles.

Los resultados de las pruebas será disponible al público, pero el información personal de los terratenientes será omitido.

Los participantes deben tener acceso a la espita de su agua de pozo antes de que se lleve adelante un tratamiento o filtración.

Contacte al DEQ para ser considerado para el estudio: o 503-693-5736.

El DEQ le enviará un formulario con preguntas sobre su pozo. Los pozos se seleccionan en función de su ubicación y características.

Descargar el permiso: Este formulario describe las pruebas con más detalle e incluye un comunicado para otorgar acceso a los efectos de realizar el muestreo.

Groundwater monitoring

Groundwater is essential to the economic viability and livability of many Oregon communities. groundwater is used for irrigation, drinking water, municipal water supplies, and other uses. It serves as the water supply for over 70 percent of residents in Oregon. More than 600,000 Oregonians get their drinking water from individual private water wells.

Groundwater also influences the quality of many Oregon rivers and streams. Especially during the dry summer months, groundwater inflows affect stream flow, chemistry and temperature which in turn determine the quality of surface waters used for drinking water, irrigation and recreation. High quality inflows of groundwater are essential for maintaining cold-water fisheries in many streams.

This information is currently being updated. Please check back again soon.

​DEQ also protects groundwater resources through a number of water quality and land quality permit programs. Each year monitoring staff visit approximately fifteen of more than 75 statewide solid waste landfill sites. 

Samples are analyzed for a broad range of contaminants such as organic pollutants, metals and other contaminants of concern. Many landfills were initially monitored by DEQ staff. Now, the primary role of DEQ groundwater monitoring is to provide oversight and perform routine audits on various contractors that complete this valuable monitoring work at these facilities. Monitoring data from landfills are used by regional DEQ hydrogeologists, engineers and permit staff to evaluate compliance with solid waste permit requirements.​​

​DEQ staff worked with Department of Human Services to evaluate source water quality at several public water supply systems located throughout Oregon. DEQ chemists assessed samples collected from these aquifers for a broad spectrum of contaminants including pesticides, pharmaceuticals and personal care products, many of which have no federal drinking water standards. In another effort, DEQ staff worked collaboratively with DHS to quickly assess water quality at more than 100 domestic wells in Douglas County. These efforts yielded important information on the quality of drinking water supplies for Oregonians living in rural communities.​​

Who does what?

Although DEQ has primary responsibility for groundwater protection, Oregon’s groundwater quality protection program consists of a number of programs spread among different state agencies. Four state agencies, DEQ, the Oregon Health Authority, Water Resources Department, and the Department of Agriculture implement the majority of federal and state programs relating to groundwater.

​In addition to implementing the following programs, it is the Water Quality Division's responsibility to oversee the implementation of the Groundwater Quality Protection Act and rules. DEQ also permits artificial groundwater recharge projects, as needed, and provides input to WRD for aquifer storage and recovery projects. The Laboratory Division provides monitoring support to many program areas relating to groundwater, including groundwater monitoring for the Groundwater Management Areas.​

Drinking Water Protection Program 

  • Implemented by DEQ and DHS-DWP for Oregon.
  • Requires states to develop Source Water Assessments for public water supply systems (surface water and groundwater sources).

Groundwater Management Areas  

  • Designated by DEQ when groundwater in an area has elevated contaminant concentrations resulting, at least in part, from non-point sources.
  • Oregon has designated three GWMAs because of elevated nitrate concentrations in groundwater. 

Onsite Sewage Disposal Program 

  • Regulates the installation of individual on-site disposal systems with procedures to protect groundwater.
  • In some areas, the county runs the program and issues permits under DEQ guidelines.

Underground Injection Control Program 

  • Regulates waste injection into the ground with groundwater protection requirements.

Wastewater Permitting Program 

  • Regulates the disposal of wastewater through federal NPDES and state WPCF permits.
  • Facilities having the potential to impact groundwater are required to have a groundwater quality protection program (implemented by DEQ regional offices). 

Water Reuse Program 

  • Prescribes treatment and monitoring requirements for the beneficial use of wastewater.

Biosolids Management 

  • Encourages the beneficial use of biosolids to protect public health and the environment.
  • Almost all biosolids derived from domestic wastewater treatment facilities in Oregon are applied to the land for agricultural purposes.

Solid Waste Program 

  • Permits the siting and management of new industrial and municipal solid waste facilities. 
  • New facilities are required to conduct site investigations and water quality monitoring to determine the landfill’s potential to impact groundwater.
  • Facilities which pose a threat to groundwater quality are required to perform groundwater monitoring and reporting and install synthetic liners and leachate collection and treatment systems.

Hazardous Waste Program 

  • Administers statutes and rules to regulate and permit the generation, storage, transportation, treatment and disposal of hazardous waste.

Cleanup Program 

  • Provides for identification and remediation of sites contaminated with hazardous substances.
  • Incorporates Site Assessment, Voluntary Cleanup, Independent Cleanup, Brownfields, Dry Cleaners, Orphans, and Site Response. 

Tanks Program

  • Incorporates the Underground Storage Tank Program, Leaking Underground Storage Tank Program, and the Heating Oil Tank Program.
  • Leaking UST Program specifically deals with cleanup of soil and groundwater contamination from underground storage tanks.   

Oregon Department of Human Services Drinking Water Program

  • Administers the Safe Drinking Water Act programs (including Public Water System monitoring, Real Estate Transaction Well-Testing, Drinking Water Protection Program (with DEQ), Wellhead Protection Area Certification, & provides technical assistance to to PWS on well construction issues).
  • Provides input to WRD on Artificial Groundwater Recharge and ASR projects.

 Oregon Department of Water Resources

  • Allocates groundwater and surface water rights.
  • Provides water resource data.
  • Administers the statutes and rules governing monitoring and supply well construction, usage, & abandonment, low temperature geothermal wells, and ASR.
  • Conducts extensive groundwater investigations.

Oregon Department of Agriculture

  •  Has lead responsibility for water quality protection in areas of agricultural activities.
  • Regulates pesticide registration and use, develops agricultural water quality management plans, regulates and permits confined animal feeding operations, and administers ODA grants for groundwater research and development.

Oregon State University Extension Service

  • Conducts research and provides information related to agricultural and land-use issues, including studies of agricultural practices impact on groundwater and monitoring groundwater for nitrate. 

Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development

  • Responsible for reviewing local land use plans and regulations for compliance with the statewide planning goals.
  • Several statewide planning goals require local governments to establish policies and implement measures necessary to protect groundwater.

Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries

  • Permitting agency for gas and oil wells, mining development and reclamation, and geothermal wells (for systems with temperatures 250 degrees F or greater or depths 2,000 feet or deeper). 
  • Coordinates with DEQ and other agencies to address groundwater issues related to permitting. 

Oregon Department of Energy

  • Regulates energy facilities, radioactive wastes and the transport of radioactive material.
  • Coordinates these activities with DEQ and other state agencies, as applicable.​

Groundwater protection in Oregon occurs at the federal, state and local level through various agencies. Oregon administers many groundwater-related Federal programs including the Clean Water Act; Safe Drinking Water Act; Resource Conservation and Recovery Act; Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act; and Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act. 

In addition to these federal laws, Oregon has its own laws and regulations relating to groundwater protection. Similarly, local governments may regulate groundwater through local ordinances in addition to assisting state and federal agencies in enforcing groundwater regulations. Groundwater protection can also occur through non-regulatory means such as education, voluntary programs, and local groups.  

State regulations

Oregon Groundwater Quality Protection Act of 1989 - The goal of the Oregon Groundwater Quality Protection Act is to prevent contamination of groundwater and to conserve, restore, and maintain Oregon’s groundwater resource for present and future uses. 

Federal regulations


Statewide Groundwater Quality Monitoring Program


Groundwater Monitoring Program 

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