Water Sampling to Decide Where to Invest Resources for Drinking Water

One of the challenges we had when developing the Molalla River Drinking Water Plan was a lack of data about where drinking water quality impacts are coming from. We used existing data to identify what the biggest challenges are in the watershed, but most of that data was from the main stem of the Molalla River, which is to say it could be coming from anywhere along the Molalla River and its tributaries.

We have started to sample this fall to more clearly understand where sediment and bacteria might be entering surface water in areas throughout the watershed. We are grabbing samples at 18 sites throughout the watershed at times following larger rain events to see if there is a corresponding flush of sediment to then determine what areas might be contributing more than others. We are also taking samples to detect bacteria at 3 sites to determine where and when there might be issues.

We are looking at sediment and bacteria because we know they are prevalent in the system and causing challenges for treating municipal drinking water. Those challenges are being handled by the municipalities to ensure there is safe and high quality drinking water in the taps. However, there is a cost associated with treatment that users pay in their water bill, and reducing or eliminating pollution sources before they reach the municipal intakes reduces the cost for everyone.

Once we have results from our sampling later this winter, we’ll be able to better understand where we should invest our time and any financial resources we can bring into the community to reduce the presence of these pollutants. We’ll also better understand where additional monitoring might be useful.

Our ultimate goal is to help landowners, homeowners, and land managers in the community understand their role in keeping clean drinking water at the tap through community outreach, providing technical information, and in some cases financial resources as well. By narrowing our outreach to the areas where there is more pollution, we can ensure the the dollars and time we invest are gaining the most benefit for the community.

So if you notice folks on the river bottling water at various sites in the watershed, know we are working to help protect and improve the quality of drinking water at the tap for the 20,000+ consumers who rely on the Molalla River to live, work, and play.

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