WaterWatch of Oregon


Mission Statement

Our Mission

Since 1985, WaterWatch has pursued a single clear mission: To protect and restore flows in our rivers to sustain the native fish, wildlife, and the people who depend on healthy rivers. WaterWatch was the first organization in the West to seek structural reform of antiquated water laws to protect and restore our rivers.


Our Origins

In the late 1970s a pioneering group of Rogue River Basin anglers set out to restore streams for salmon and steelhead. What began as an effort to improve conditions for fish with shovels, logs, boulders and plantings sparked a movement that changed water law and river conservation across Oregon and the West.
As they worked, these visionary anglers recognized that without water instream, all of their labor would come to naught. Yet, across Oregon, more water often flowed in irrigation canals than in adjacent streams. One angler, Tom Simmons, began to investigate. Almost immediately, he met Audrey Jackson, a long-time Oregon activist on water issues. Tom and Audrey joined forces. They learned that Oregon gave away new rights to use water (a public resource), for free, without considering the impacts on our rivers or fish through processes dominated by agricultural, municipal and industrial interests. They also learned that many waterways across Oregon were literally being sucked dry.
The situation was not unique to Oregon. Across the West, rivers ran dry under antiquated water laws that failed to consider meaningfully the needs of rivers, fish, wildlife or the public interest in water. To address the dramatic imbalance between private and public uses of water, Tom and Audrey founded WaterWatch of Oregon in 1985.

Our Focus

Our five focuses below are common components in all of our programmatic work
Sound Water Policy: WaterWatch is a leader in the reform of antiquated water laws to protect and restore rivers and streams.
Healthy Rivers: Healthy rivers need enough flow to provide clean water and support abundant fish, wildlife, and recreation.
Native Fish and Wildlife: Oregon's rivers and streams are essential for the native plants, fish, wildlife, and people who depend on healthy waterways.
River Recreation: WaterWatch is passionate about protecting Oregon's world-class river recreation opportunities.
Responsible Growth: We support conservation and better management to reduce the burden of growth on water resources.

Program Details

Our Programs

WaterWatch works in the legislature, the courts, with state and federal agencies, and in the media to support sound water policies and protect natural streamflows in Oregon’s rivers. Our main programmatic areas are:

Klamath Basin: To restore the Everglades of the West, WaterWatch advocates to bring the demand for water back into balance with what nature can provide for the fish, wildlife, and people who depend on the Klamath Basin's resources.
Rogue Basin: WaterWatch has worked for decades to remove dams and improve flows to benefit the Rogue Basin’s fish populations while enhancing fishing, boating, recreation, and the region's way of life.
Deschutes Basin: WaterWatch has been involved in many historic accomplishments in the Deschutes Basin over the past three decades, and continues to be a leader in improving water management and river health across the region.
Advocating for Reform: WaterWatch advocates before the state legislature, relevant agencies and commissions, and the governor's office in support of healthy rivers and for reforms to the antiquated laws and policies degrading our waterways.
Government Watch-Dogging: WaterWatch is the only group monitoring all of the individual water allocation decisions across Oregon for compliance with the law and potential negative effects on our rivers and streams.
Growth & Climate Change: WaterWatch works to minimize the impacts of growth and climate change on Oregon’s rivers by promoting water conservation, improving water management, and ground-truthing claims used to support new water storage projects and increased water use.
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213 SW Ash Street, Suite 208
Portland, OR 97204
United States
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