Oregon may have a reputation for an abundance of rain, but even in the lush Willamette Valley, water shortages are a growing concern. Sustainable water management is essential for maintaining productive agriculture, flood control and healthy stream habitats for fish. That’s why the Water Action Team —a volunteer group of the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition is committed to reducing local tap water use as well as wastewater and stormwater.
What’s their strategy? The team is embracing a multi-pronged approach that includes both infrastructure and behavior. Actions such as de-paving parking lots, defrosting meat overnight (instead of in running water), and installing rainwater catchment systems are all part of their plan for a 50 percent reduction of the water flow through Corvallis’s municipal water systems (based on 2008 annual levels) by the year 2050.
“People don’t think there’s a water problem here,” said Dave Eckert, the Water Action Team leader. But according to the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute, Oregon’s water resources are already seeing significant changes. Winter flooding is likely to result from more precipitation falling as rain instead of snow. In the summer, water shortages may become more frequent. Across the western U.S., the reality of a water crisis is even more severe, as many states confront wildfires and drought.
“[At the workshop] I asked a raise of hands of who had moved from Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico — all the dry states, and a bunch of hands sheepishly moved up,” Eckert said.
Even though Oregon faces water shortages too, Eckert thinks more “climate refugees” will be moving to this area as drought worsens in the Southwest. This trend reinforces the importance of sustainably managing our current water resources in order to brace the region for a growing population.
In February 2014, the First Alternative Co-op participated in Transformation Without Apocalypse at Oregon State University.