Oregon’s Water Future: Climate Change, Environmental Disasters, and Community Resilience

Oregon Water Futures Team 2019
Oregon's Water Future Team in 2019

Principal Investigator: Alai Reyes-Santos (Indigenous, Race, and Ethnic Studies)

Project Summary: In Fall 2020 we heard from more than 100 people across the state through virtual community gatherings and phone interviews. Oregon Environmental Council, Coalition of Communities of Color, Willamette Partnership, and University of Oregon coordinated a public engagement effort with research partners Chinook Indian Nation, PCUN, Euvalcree, Unite Oregon, Verde, and NAACP (Eugene-Springfield). The experience, knowledge and ideas coming from these community members will contribute to how we envision water resilience in the face of environmental disasters and climate change.

When we started planning this project in 2019, the world felt like a very different place. The Governor’s office was developing a 100-Year Water Vision for Oregon, a new Water Committeehad been formed in the state legislature, and we were organizing in-person community meetings to start in March 2020.

While COVID-19 forced us to pause and adapt, the combined crises of the pandemic, systemic racism and the economic downturn have shone new light on the importance of these conversations. Building back better means something specific for communities without running water to wash hands, those facing water shutoffs because they can’t afford their bills, and the many people whose experiences and priorities have not historically been part of water policy discussions in Salem.

The Oregon Water Futures project centers the priorities of tribal nations, communities of color, immigrants, rural and low-income Oregonians. We hope to illuminate what Water Justice means to Oregonians on the frontlines of our water challenges and identify new community solutions for today and future generations. In 2021 we prepare to work on a water justice framework that engages the data gathered in Fall 2020 to articulate policy pathways relevant to water justice in the state.

Funding for the Oregon Water Futures Project is provided by Meyer Memorial Trust, Oregon Community Foundation, Wildhorse Foundation, University of Oregon Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies, University of Oregon Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics, Resilience Initiative Seed Funding by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation at the University of Oregon, University of Oregon Center for Environmental Futures (Mellon Foundation), and the Lazar Foundation.