EWEB recognizes that farms are a critically important resource in the watershed. They produce food and other products that society depends on, provide a livelihood for farmers, and maintain the land in a condition that is generally conducive to environmental stewardship and is also a preferred land use to subdivisions and other development adjacent to the river. EWEB is interested in helping farms to become more economically viable so that farmland stays as farmland and is not sold off for development. At the same time, EWEB is also interested in encouraging farmers to reduce chemical use where possible, as pesticides and fertilizers can run off of the land and into the river during rain events. EWEB’s drinking water treatment plant, like most other conventional drinking water treatment plants, was not designed to treat for these types of chemicals.
EWEB supports farmers through the Healthy Farms Clean Water Program, which consists of several project components that farmers can choose from to help improve their economic viability, ranging from free soil sampling to free agricultural chemical disposal.
Development along rivers often leads to loss of riparian vegetation, increased fertilizer and pesticide use, increased impervious surface area and storm water runoff, contamination of water from septic systems, and hazardous materials spills. The closer to the river, the more likely pollutants are to reach the water via runoff, especially during rain and storms.
In the McKenzie watershed, development along the river has resulted in over 200 structures being built in the floodway, and nearly 1,200 in the 100-year floodplain. While drinking water quality of the McKenzie River is currently excellent, human activity and development within the watershed poses significant challenges for the long-term protection of this currently clean and safe drinking water source.
The Eugene Water & Electric Board (EWEB) hopes to help farmers become more economically viable in order to keep farmland as farmland, which is considered a more benign land use than conversion to residential housing.