Take a few minute to complete this checklist. Add up the number you circled as answers in each column to find your total. Use the information on the back to see how your agricultural water quality awareness measures up.
In 1990 the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) declared the Lower Umatilla Basin a Groundwater Management Area (LUBGWMA) because nitrate-nitrogen concentrations in many area groundwater samples exceed the federal safe drinking water standard of 10 mg/l.
The Umatilla River Sub basin encompasses approximately 2,545 square miles in Northeastern Oregon and is home to productive agricultural lands. Due to the irrigated agriculture intensity and overdevelopment, the Water Resources Department (OWRD) declared four Critical Groundwater Areas (CGAs). In addition, the Lower Umatilla Basin (LUB) was declared a Groundwater Management Area (GWMA) in 1990, due to nitrate-nitrogen concentrations in excess of the EPA Safe Drinking Water levels. These declarations make these areas a focal point for water quality and quantity education and outreach. The target audience is rural residents because, the lure of country living often includes visions of the backyard garden and small acreage farms, creating potential increased groundwater contamination from concentration of domestic septic systems, over watering and fertilization of lawns and animal pastures and improper well construction. Irrigated agriculture users are also a target audience as one of the main contributors.
In 2004 Umatilla County Critical Groundwater Task Force was formed and charged with developing and recommending solutions to water quantity issues. Both the LUB Action Plan and Umatilla Sub -basin 2050
Water Management Plan (2050 Plan) identified the Umatilla County SWCD as the major outreach entity to property owners and stated the UCSWCD should develop a comprehensive strategy focusing on both water quality and quantity.
In 1999, the Lower Umatilla Basin Groundwater Management Area Residential Survey was first implemented. Residents in the LUBGWMA were surveyed to assess their current level of awareness relative to (1) the concerns of the groundwater quality in the LUB, (2) the causes of the groundwater quality concerns, and (3) the methods which reduce the nitrate loading in the basin. The survey was also used to help increase the level of awareness in households relative to the above three issues. Three similar surveys were completed in 2002, 2007, and 2010. Results showed that in most cases, less than 50% of the people surveyed knew what issues the LUBGWMA face and what was being done to address these issues.
In 2011, the Education Subcommittee of the LUB GWMA Advisory Committee began development of an overall communication plan to educate the public about the associated health risks with high nitrate levels in the drinking water system and the methods available to prevent or reduce nitrate levels, encourage public input and involvement in communicating the proper messages about nitrates, and encourage residents to change behaviors to protect the groundwater resource. Individual subcommittees are encouraged to develop specific communication plans to relay the appropriate message to varied audiences. These audiences include: irrigated agriculture, rural residential community, general public, school age children, and non-English speakers.
The goal of the SWCD is to foster community stewardship by raising awareness of the limited groundwater supply, water quality issues, and the associated health risks with high nitrate levels in the drinking water system. Landowners need the proper tools and resources to make lifestyle or land management changes to help alleviate the water issues in the LUB by adopting Best Management Practices specific to their land use needs and through education/outreach programs such as workshops and landowner meetings.
Umatilla County contains four of the seven Critical Groundwater Areas (CGWA) in the state of Oregon (Stage Gulch Basalt, Butter Creek Basalt, Ordnance Basalt, Ordnance Gravel). Law mandates that the Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRD) declare a CGWA when the usage of groundwater exceeds the long-term natural replenishment of the aquifer. To protect the groundwater supply, strict restrictions are enforced.