Water Quality Committee

Protecting and enhancing Oregon’s water quality is the primary mission of ACWA. The Water Quality Committee focuses on water quality standards, NPDES and WPCF permit issues, and watershed health.

Oregon Gardens
The Oregon Gardens, an 80-acre botanical garden, is irrigated with treated wastewater from the City of Silverton—saving potable water while providing for the needs of plants in 20 speciality gardens.

Oregon Water Quality Standards

Under the Clean Water Act, water quality standards are set by the state to protect beneficial uses. The State standards must be approved by US EPA. Oregon has a wide variety of water quality standards, and the most stringent water quality standards for toxics—human-health related—in the nation. Information on Oregon’s water quality standards is available on DEQ’s website.

Water Quality Permitting

The Water Quality Committee is very involved in detailed reviews of Oregon and EPA water quality permitting and permitting policies. For communities and industries that discharge to Oregon’s rivers and streams, a federal/state permit is required—a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. In Oregon, DEQ operates the NPDES permitting program with more information on their stie.

Facilities that do not discharge wastewater by storing it in a lagoon, recycling it, or beneficially reusing it are permitted as Water Pollution Control Facilities.

Water Quality Permitting Tools

DEQ issues a number of Internal Management Directives (IMDs), or guidance, that detail how permitting decisions are made on issues such as setting an appropriate mixing zone, SSOs, antidegradation, determining if a discharge as a Reasonable Potential to exceed water quality criteria, use of recycled water, and other technical information. An inventory of the Water Quality Division IMDs affecting permitting is available on the DEQ website.


Water Quality Trading Tools

Water quality trading is often a more environmentally effective and more cost effective tool to meet environmental standards. In Oregon, water quality trading has been used in by an industrial source in Columbia County, by Clean Water Services, and by the City of Medford.

Important partners when considering a water quality trade include:

  • Willamette Partnership—The Partnership has detailed accounting and credit verification protocols to use when generating or using water quality credits.

  • The Freshwater Trust—The Freshwater Trust partners with municipalities, ranchers and farmers to generate and deliver water quality credits.

DEQ supports water quality trading, and information about its trading policy and permitting examples using trading are available on their site.

TMDLs — Pollution Reduction Plans

manhole coverUnder the Clean Water Act, when rivers and streams do not meet water quality standards, a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) is developed. The TMDL is used to identify the measures needed to reduce pollution to levels that achieve standards. Point sources such as municipal treatment plants or industries have the reduced pollution levels inserted into NPDES permits; nonpoint sources such as ag or forestry practices are adjusted to reduce pollution levels also.

TMDLs are developed by Oregon DEQ in concert with local stakeholders. The TMDLs are then approved by EPA and implemented. More information on the Oregon TMDL program is available at DEQ.

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