Kathy Eva, City of Eugene Stormwater, provided an educational presentation about how drainage into the stormwater system is impacting our local community and our waterways. These notes are from her presentation:

  • 70% of the earth’s surface is water. 3% is fresh water. Only 1% is available for drinking. We are using the same source of water over and over again.
  • Mountain streams to the south and southwest flow into the Willamette providing Eugene and Springfield with a clean supply of water.
  • Where stormwater ends up depends on how each community manages it.
  • In Eugene, water does not get treated before entering the Amazon Creek or the Willamette River.
  • River health in Oregon has ebbed and flowed. As early as the 1800s according to Lewis and Clark, the rivers were so full of salmon you could almost walk across their backs to cross. As communities began to settle they used river water for drinking and also dumped their waste water back into the river. As early as the 1920’s water health began to degrade. By the 1940’s, water quality was so poor no form of life could survive in it. This same problem was happening across the nation.
  • The Cuyahoga River fire in 1969 was the catalyst for a clean water movement across the nation. The first Congressional act was in 1972. The Clean Water Act was passed in 1972. It was another 15 years before meaningful legislation – the Water Quality Act – was passed in 1987. Communities with populations of 100,000 or more would be required to develop stormwater management plans. Eugene’s plan, the Comprehensive Stormwater Management Plan, was adopted in 1993. The city reports annually to the Department of Environmental Quality on progress of stormwater program activities including program management, best management practices and water quality monitoring.
  • One part of the plan is a stormwater education program to help citizens understand pollution and the long term impacts, and what citizens can do to reduce pollution. Lily the frog became the clean water ambassador for our city to visit schools and events and curriculum on water quality was implemented for K-12.
  • Partnerships have been critical to public outreach. The Lane Pollution Prevention Coalition (P2C) includes the city of Eugene and Springfield, the Springfield Utility Board, Dept. of Environmental Quality, EWEB, Lane County Waste Managment and Lane Regional Air Protection Agency. Initially this group collaborated on informational outreach about water, air, ground, and waste prevention and later added some technical assistance programs.
  • Other valuable partnerships funded through grants include Long Tom Watershed Council (latino outreach), a Sustainable Landscape Program, the Water Wise Garden, and Special Ops Group with Eugene, Springfield and Lane County that collaborates on education campaigns such as environmentally-friendly car washes, pressure washing, managing paint waste and more.

The stormwater program is putting more focus on “clean water” education since clean water is more familiar terminology that stormwater. And, ultimately, our goal is to protect the health of our rivers to keep them clean and healthy. More information about the city’s clean water education campaigns are available at www.happyrivers.org.

Please be thoughtful about how you use water and remember that water runoff from streets, yards, parking lots and more ends up in our local rivers, untreated.

As Naturalist, John Muir, so aptly noted, “When we try to pick anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”