Drinking Water Services (DWS) reduces the incidence and risk of waterborne disease and exposure of the public to hazardous substances potentially present in drinking water supplies.
DWS administers and enforces state and federal safe drinking water quality standards for 3,600 public water systems in the state of Oregon. DWS prevents contamination of public drinking water systems by protecting drinking water sources; assuring that public water systems meet standards for design, construction, and operation; inspecting public water systems and assuring that identified deficiencies are corrected; providing technical assistance to public water suppliers; providing financial assistance to construct safe drinking water infrastructure; and certifying and training water system operators.
Drinking Water Services is part of the Center for Health Protection and is divided into four core work units:
- Administrative Unit: Responsible for overall Drinking Water Services administration and management, budget analysis and planning, and interagency coordination.
- Data Management, Compliance, and Enforcement Unit (DMCE): Receives and manages all laboratory data submitted by public water systems, develops and maintains the drinking water database management system, keeps a detailed inventory of water systems and facilities, develops compliance reports and determines rule compliance, and manages the State-EPA agreement. The DMCE unit also coordinates lab accreditation and certification activities (along with Oregon Environmental Accreditation Program - ORELAP), develops water system enforcement actions, and coordinates rulemaking.
- Technical Services Unit (TS): Provides direct technical and field assistance to water systems. Within contract counties, TS is responsible for the larger community systems (>3,300 population) and all communities using surface water sources. In direct service counties where there is no environmental health program (or where the county does not elect to perform drinking water work), TS staff directly serve these public water systems. Because water systems face increasingly complex water quality regulations and problems, systems of all types frequently need assistance with and advice on technical aspects of the drinking water standards, their health significance, source water protection, water treatment issues, and operation and maintenance problems. A primary responsibility of the TS unit is to conduct water system (sanitary) surveys; provide support and assistance to local county health departments; and review plans for new systems and modifications of existing water system facilities. TS is organized to serve two regional areas and has field offices in Medford, Pendleton, and Springfield.
- Protection, Planning, and Certification Unit (PPC): Manages county health department contracts, carries out the cross connection and water system operator certification programs, administers and coordinates the Safe Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund, coordinates water system security goals and activities, and provides water system capacity assessment.
The State Drinking Water Advisory Committee (DWAC) was created to advise and assist Drinking Water Services on policies related to the protection, safety and regulation of public drinking water in Oregon. The committee consists of representatives from served communities, advocacy groups and professional organizations.
Other agencies also provide key contributions to assuring safe drinking water. Drinking Water Services staff work with local health departments, water system operators and managers, private consulting and service firms, professional water industry organizations, and educational institutions throughout Oregon in an effort to assure safe drinking water.
Laboratory work in support of Drinking Water Services and local county investigative or follow-up actions are coordinated through joint agreements with the following agencies:
Drinking Water Services also works closely with the Oregon Department of Agriculture to assure that their public water systems meet state drinking water standards.
Drinking Water Services, in its current form, was created by the 1981 Oregon State Legislature through passage of the Oregon Drinking Water Quality Act (Oregon Revised Statutes 448). The act mandated a comprehensive regulatory program for public water systems that combined technical assistance and training with development and enforcement of standards for water quality, system construction and operation. Learn more about Oregon drinking water rules and regulations.
- 1977-1981: During 1977-81, when there was no significant state agency with oversight and monitoring abilities over Oregon drinking water quality, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Drinking Water Program staffed an office in Oregon to implement the original federal U.S. Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). With enactment of the Oregon Drinking Water Quality Act in 1981, the then State Drinking Water Program was created. Program staffing was increased by the 1983 Legislature to augment technical assistance efforts.
- 1985-1986: The 1985 Legislature authorized the then Oregon Health Division (OHD) to apply for primary administrative responsibility (i.e., primacy) for the SDWA. In 1986, OHD's application for primacy was approved by the EPA, thus ending dual federal and state regulation of public water systems in Oregon and making OHD solely responsible for administering both federal and state drinking water regulations. The EPA program in Oregon was disbanded and program funding transferred to OHD.
- 1987-1993: The Legislature added water system operator certification responsibilities in 1987 and new groundwater protection activities in 1989. In 1991, the Legislature authorized the Safe Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund to assist communities in financing drinking water construction projects. The 1993 Legislature created the Water Fund for safe drinking water and wastewater improvement construction projects. OHD authority to conduct a cross connection program was also authorized.
- 1996: The SDWA Amendments of 1996 were signed into law by President Bill Clinton on August 6, 1996. This was the culmination of a long effort by water professionals and interested parties around the country to reform and refocus the national safe drinking water program. It also provided funds for a Safe Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund.
- Reduce or prevent contamination of public drinking water supplies
- Improve water system operation and management through training and technical assistance programs for water system operators, managers, engineers and laboratory staff
- Improve adequacy, reliability and viability of public water systems
- Increase public knowledge, participation and support for safe drinking water
- Conduct an efficient and effective regulatory program that implements federal Environmental Protection Agency safe drinking water standards and state drinking water regulations
Drinking Water Services is part of the Center for Health Protection. Search the Public Health Program Directory to see all programs in the Oregon Public Health Division.