When it comes to watering your lawn during drought and wildfire season, what’s the sweet spot between water conservation and fire hazard?

Company Wants To Turn Sewer Water Into Beer

Jan 23, 2015
Raymond Mcfee / Flickr

An Oregon water treatment company wants to turn sewer water into beer. But current state rules wouldn't allow anyone to drink it. 

Clean Water Services runs four wastewater treatment plants in the Portland metro area. Some of its treated water is used for irrigation.

But spokesman Mark Jockers said the market for recycled wastewater doesn't have to end there.

His company has an advanced treatment process that can turn sewage into drinking water. To show off that system, it wants to give some of its highly purified wastewater to home brewers.

Portland Now Generating Hydropower In Its Water Pipes

Jan 21, 2015
Daniel Kulinski / Flickr

A Portland start-up is tapping a new source of renewable power inside the city's water pipes. The new system uses the power of gravity in the city's water pipes.

Lucid Energy has installed four small hydroelectric generators in a pipe that carries drinking water to the city. They will produce enough electricity to power 150 homes.

Company CEO Gregg Semler says this kind of hydropower doesn't disrupt fish or natural stream flows the way dams do. And it supplies a continuous source of renewable energy unlike wind and solar.

pfly / Flickr

Richard and Marnie Fox wanted to build a new house on their land but they couldn't get a building permit. The Foxes took legal action and their case will go before a judge on Tuesday.

The state said there was not enough water in the area to support anymore new residences without endangering salmon, especially during the drier parts of the year.

Richard Fox walked out to his back field with his leather hat and raincoat on. A bunch of sopping wet cows looked at him, vaguely curious. His backyard was flooded. 

Benjamin Cody

Construction begins this week on a state project in the Methow Valley that will give fish a boost of cold, clean water in rivers near Twisp, Wash.

The state and a trout conservation group are pouring about $10 million into a whole new irrigation system there.

Back in 2011, the Methow Valley Irrigation District was fined more than $30,000 for its old, leaky irrigation system. The state determined it was wasting water through too much seepage in its open canals.

Study: Aquifers Draining Quickly, Less In Northwest

May 21, 2013
Amelia Templeton / EarthFix

A new study says the nation’s aquifers are shrinking at an alarming rate The problem is not as bad in the Northwest, thanks to an abundance of rivers and streams. But even here, aquifers are shrinking. For EarthFix, Courtney Flatt has more.

Portland Prepares For Fluoride Vote 

May 6, 2013
Michael Clapp / Oregon Public Broadcasting

This month, voters will decide whether to approve a plan to fluoridate Portland's water. Supporters say Portland children - especially in low-income families - suffer aggravated dental problems because the city has chosen not to add fluoride. Opponents say water fluoridation is the wrong way to address a public health problem. And so a battle that has played out before at the state level is now going on in Portland. From Oregon Public Broadcasting, April Baer reports.

Wednesday night, the Bend City Council adopted a new plan laying out the future of the city's water systems. As Oregon Public Broadcasting's David Nogueras reports, the plan reiterates the council's intention to move ahead with a controversial overhaul of city's surface water system.

Yakima Dairies Agree to Reduce Nitrate Contamination

Mar 7, 2013

Four Eastern Washington dairies have agreed to reduce pollution that’s been contaminating drinking water. For EarthFix, Courtney Flatt has more.

There’s not enough water in eastern Oregon for farmers and fish. Gov. John Kitzhaber designated one basin as a place to try a possible solution to this problem. At the Oregon Leadership Summit Monday, farmers and environmentalists talked about what’s being done.

Most of us may be enjoying the fall sunshine, but Northwest wheat farmers are instead wishing for a little rain. Correspondent Anna King caught up with one Northwest wheat grower in the vast Horse Heaven Hills near Prosser, Washington.

The nation’s largest water bottling plant could go up in Anacortes, Washington. The Anacortes City Council voted Monday on a key provision in the process towards bringing in some sort of new manufacturing facility. KUOW’s Sara Lerner reports.

Portland City Council has unanimously approved fluoridating the city's water system. April Baer of Oregon Public Broadcasting reports, a challenge to the plan has already been set in motion. 

About a dozen signs dotted the room, with opposition slogans like "Public water, public vote." Several hecklers were thrown out.

Council members including Amanda Fritz said they felt some concerns raised by opponents were valid. 

State Changes Course On Water Regulation

Aug 22, 2012

The Department of Ecology recently decided not to change the fish consumption rate in Washington. The rate is important because it drives regulatory standards for water quality. In other words how much seafood we eat determines how clean our water is.Indian tribes and environmentalists say the current rate is dangerously low. Lesley McClurg explains.

Jim Peters has been a longtime fisherman.

Oregon Cities Debate Water Fluoridation

Aug 20, 2012

Across America, two-thirds of the population drinks water treated with fluoride. Oregon’s fluoridation rate is about 23 percent — 48th out of fifty states. Portland is now the largest city in the country without fluoridated water but a coalition of supporters is lobbying to change that. KLCC's Tiffany Eckert takes a look at this controversial subject.

Photo by Joe Mabel / Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Seattle’s Duwamish River has been the industrial heart of the city for a century. It’s been straightened, filled and diked. During World War II thousands of airplanes were built there. Today cargo from around the world arrives in massive container ships, lining the mouth of the river. Industrial facilities dot its banks.

As part of EarthFix and Investigate West’s series on the 40th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act, Ashley Ahearn takes a look at the Duwamish River now – and how its future recovery could play out.

Environmental regulators have detected high levels of fecal coliform in one of the Northwest's most important areas for growing food. Reporting for EarthFix, Courtney Flatt has more.

The bureau of reclamation is predicting a water shortage in Oregon’s Klamath basin. The federal water agency has asked Klamath farmers to consider idling their land. Amelia Templeton reports.

Water Conservation Linked to Energy

May 18, 2012

A Northwest environmental group is offering a new reason to conserve water: it’s a way to save energy and shrink your carbon footprint. Aaron Kunz explains.

Conservation group Idaho Rivers United monitored 15 water providers in western Idaho to see how much energy they used. It’s the first research of its kind in the country -- and it’s attracting attention.

Liz Paul of Idaho Rivers United says the group hopes the information gives the public a new way of thinking about the water they use.

Doling out water in the arid western United States is tough to do. There’s not much to be had, and everyone wants a fair share. What’s fair? It depends who you ask. But as correspondent Courtney Flatt reports, one basin in central Washington is finding a way for fish, farmers and communities to have enough water.

EPA Gives Oregon Water Report A Mixed Review

Mar 19, 2012

SALEM, Ore. -- Oregon’s 2010 water quality report has earned a mixed review from the U.S. EPA.

Scientists hope to gain new information about salmon migration patterns now that an in-depth study is back on track. Researchers at Oregon State University had to put their efforts on hold for the past two years. That's because most salmon fishing was restricted along the west coast. The goal of the research is to more accurately pinpoint where salmon from specific rivers spend their time in the ocean. OSU marine researcher Gil Sylvia says that could eventually mean fewer wide scale shutdowns of the salmon industry to protect endangered fish.

KELSO, Wash. – During timber's heyday, it was common to see tugboats pulling huge rafts of logs to area mills. In the process, many valuable old-growth trees sank to the bottom of Northwest rivers and lakes. That's given rise to different breed of logger. A few enterprising souls have sought to take advantage of the underwater hidden forest. But Washington State has moved decisively to shut down underwater timber salvage operations. That's effectively sunk the business in Oregon too.

The National Park Service, community leaders, and a Northwest Washington Indian tribe marked a major milestone Friday toward removing two dams on the Elwha River. They're on the north Olympic Peninsula.

Air pollution from oceangoing ships will be dramatically reduced under new rules agreed to by shipping companies, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and international regulators. The pollution rules affect container ships, cruise lines and oil tankers calling on West Coast ports.

Starting next year, some of the trash you toss out may end up in gas tanks instead of buried at a large regional landfill in eastern Oregon. 

This project is a joint venture between landfill operator Waste Management Inc. and a small engineering company based in Bend called InEnTec. The partners announced they'll build their first waste-to-energy plant at the big landfill near Arlington, Oregon. The planned facility will vaporize trash in a very high temperature melter. Spokeswoman Jackie Lang says the resulting superheated gases can then be recombined to make synthetic fuel.

Photo taken by the Department of Ecology for Washington State

The lack of snow pack this winter in the Northwest could spell problems for irrigators. That is especially true in areas that have had long term problems with water supply, like the Yakima basin.

The Yakima basin is an agricultural region that has dealt with water shortages for many years. The U.S. bureau of Reclamation serves several irrigation districts in the region, but while much of the water comes from the Yakima River, Reclamation spokeswoman Wendy Christiansen says a good portion is dependent on mountain snow pack.

RICHLAND, Wash. – The water system is sick in a huge swath of Eastern Washington -- from Union Gap near Yakima to Benton City near the Tri-Cities. State and federal officials announced Thursday that much of the ground water in the lower valley is dangerous to drink. Correspondent Anna King reports. 

The Yakima Valley is like a multi layered cake punched with a network of drinking straws. There are irrigation drainage pipes, farm canals, deep wells, really old shallow wells, aquifers and rivers all coming. Somehow lots of nitrates and bacteria are getting into the ground water.

SALEM, Ore. - Many of Oregon's major transportation corridors would be impassable if a major earthquake hit. That's the upshot of a study released today by the Oregon Department of Transportation. Salem Correspondent Chris Lehman reports.

ODOT engineers used a new computer simulation program to subject Oregon bridges to hypothetical major earthquakes. The result? Many bridges along the state's biggest highways would be out of commission for months, if not longer, if a huge quake hit. That includes Interstate 5, according to ODOT's Dave Thompson:

Oregon is pushing its coastal counties to standardize the sound of tsunami warning sirens. Washington state has already done so. Correspondent Tom Banse reports.

Oregon's Emergency Management Office uses the words “mish mash” to describe the current array of tsunami warning sounds. Seaside, Oregon for example has used a steady siren wail during evacuation drills.