Spotlight on Oregon: why we do what we do

As our climate changes and our infrastructure ages, new challenges arise to keep ratepayers confident in the water flowing from their taps and for water managers committed to keeping drinking water supplies reliable and affordable for all residents.  Traditionally, water utilities have relied on human-designed infrastructure – concrete and chemicals – to engineer their way to safe drinking water but as the risks grow, so do costs.

At Working Waters, we help communities capitalize on the original engineer: nature.

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We know that healthy watersheds store and filter water more effectively than many human-designed systems. By incorporating nature-based solutions into water infrastructure management, we can reduce pollution before it enters any pipes thereby lowering water treatment costs, offsetting the burden of infrastructure maintenance, and supporting environmental health while preparing for a changing climate.

And we cannot wait any longer: 

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These statistics, while unique to Oregon, play out much the same way in every other state. Crumbling infrastructure and population change keep water managers across the country preoccupied while water pollution and climate change worry ratepayers and managers everywhere.

We believe that all communities – no matter their size, wealth, or location – should have the opportunity to create a resilient future by investing in sustainable water infrastructure and management – from the headwaters down. 

So, in 2015 we founded Drinking Water Providers Partnership, the country’s first private-public partnership dedicated to helping local groups in Oregon and Washington protect drinking water and enhance native fish habitat. 

We have focused on filling the capacity gaps that small and economically disadvantaged towns in the Pacific Northwest face, from providing technical and financial assistance through the Partnership to building working relationships between towns, conservation professionals, watershed councils, and land management agencies.  Yet the demand for nature-based solutions is greater than any one organization’s ability to provide. 

That’s why in 2019 we will be advocating to:

  • Set Local Priorities - Develop drinking water source protection and restoration plans for every community, with a special focus on small, rural, and economically disadvantaged communities.
  • Get More Restoration Accomplished - Grow the Drinking Water Providers Partnership.
  • Incentivize Resilient Water Solutions - Create a pipeline of green and grey water infrastructure projects.

These three activities can mobilize private and public resources, catalyze landscape-scale improvements, and solve real problems.

We’ve talked with individuals, leaders, and towns around the state who are ready to meet our challenges, and not just with concrete and chemicals.

The demand for nature-based solutions is there, your support can help us to meet it. 



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Initiative of
Geos Institute