What is the Molalla River Drinking Water project?

The Molalla River Drinking Water project is an effort to better understand issues affecting drinking water quality for approximately 26,000 people whose drinking water is drawn directly from the Molalla River.  While the project focuses on municipal intakes in City of Canby, City of Molalla, and the community of Colton, we are assessing factors across the entire Molalla River watershed above the City of Canby’s water intake that have potential to impact drinking water quality.

This project is pairing current and historic technical information with input from the public, land managers, agencies, and community organizations to tell the story of drinking water source quality in the Molalla Watershed, and to assess where investment of resources will bring the biggest return for drinking water source quality protection and improvement.

Our goal is to use scientific assessment to key in on what impacts are most critical, and to engage residents and regional managers and decision makers to use that data to address known issues and to predict where issues may arise.  When the project is complete, we want to have a road map for where to invest time and dollars to keep these communities healthy, resilient, and able to access clean drinking water now and in the future.

Who is the group doing the project?

Clackamas Soil and Water Conservation District (Clackamas SWCD) received a National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI) grant from Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to assess factors that affect drinking water source quality above the City of Canby intake on the Molalla.

Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCD) are special districts, which are a form of local government created by a local community to meet a specific need.  Clackamas SWCD works with landowners in Clackamas County to solve natural resource-related issues by providing technical advice, education, and funding for on-the-ground conservation.  There are 45 SWCDs in Oregon and hundreds more across the United States.

SWCDs are not regulatory entities – we work with landowners on a voluntary basis to help them adopt more conservation-minded practices on their property.  We traditionally have been agricultural and rural lands focused, but over the past two decades have expanded our programs to help urban landowners conserve resources as well.

Clackamas SWCD has hired a consultant to conduct the bulk of the research and technical work regarding the Molalla River NWQI Assessment.  John Runyon of Cascade Environmental Group and his scientific team are working closely with Clackamas SWCD and local, state, and regional agencies to gain understanding of the issues that affect drinking water quality in the Molalla River Watershed.

Why is the project being done?

Oregon NWQI projects, including the Molalla project, were selected based on criteria developed by the Oregon Dept. of Agriculture (ODA), Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB), Natural Resources Conservation Service, Oregon Water Resources Dept. (OWRD) and Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

When approached, Clackamas SWCD made the decision to sponsor the Molalla River Drinking Water project because as a non-regulatory organization focused on bringing resources to Clackamas County residents, we felt there was an opportunity to better understand and direct resources to an important segment of our service area.

While we provide services across a wide range of land uses, much of the drinking water source area consists of land managed for agricultural and forestry uses, and we feel our experience delivering technical and financial resources to Clackamas County communities can positively impact drinking water source quality in the watershed.  This project helps us to know the watershed more intimately and to prioritize our resource delivery to address the most important drinking water related issues.

Resources for conducting the assessment have been granted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help determine readiness for additional federal funding for on-the-ground water quality improvement projects.  While some of the initial resources we hope to bring to the Molalla Watershed will be available only to agricultural and forestry producers, the assessment is being developed to identify a broader range of issues for which we hope to bring additional resources to address.

The Molalla River drinking water source area, which serves approximately 26,000 people, was selected based on the following factors:

  • High potential for participation by willing landowners/producers or small woodland operations within sensitive areas of the delineated drinking water source area
  • High potential that watershed partners will be willing and have capacity to help
  • Existing monitoring data available to establish baseline water quality conditions
  • Completed Source Water Assessment or Plan for the drinking water source area
  • Project would address nutrients, sediment, pathogens, and pesticides
  • Recreational Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) advisory or water of potential concern for HABs in source area
  • Listing in the Oregon DEQ Integrated Report and Clean Water Act
  • Section 303(d) list for not meeting water quality standards for algae and aquatic weeds, chlorophyll-a, nitrates, phosphorus, ammonia, turbidity, sedimentation, pH, or dissolved oxygen (for cold- or cool water aquatic life)
  • Critical habitat for salmon, steelhead or bull trout
  • Geographic proximity to agency focus area (i.e. Oregon Department of Agriculture Strategic Implementation or Focus Areas, Pesticide Stewardship Partnership area, or groundwater management area)

How will the project affect me?

By scientifically identifying and prioritizing important drinking water source quality issues, Clackamas SWCD’s goal is to invest resources to address issues that will provide the most impact.  Our goal is to both improve at risk source water areas and protect areas that are critical to source water quality.

If you are a landowner or manager, this project will allow you to understand how your land fits into the larger story for source water quality.  If you are willing to consider practices to reduce water quality impacts from your operation, you may also receive resources from grants to address any areas that are contributing to water quality impairment.

If you are a drinking water customer, our goal is to help you better understand your drinking water source, help you understand and reduce your impacts on source water quality, and to help you continue to have safe and clean drinking water now and into the future.

Where can I learn more?

This website will continue to have up-to-date information on meeting opportunities and findings from the project.

Be sure to explore the pages above and please contact us if you can’t find what you are looking for or if you have questions.