The coalition of businesses and community organizations that formed in 2022 to provide drinking water resources to residential well users in Morrow and Umatilla counties has formalized into Water for Eastern Oregon (H2OEO), intent on bringing focus to clean water challenges and opportunities in the basin.
H2OEO is committed to continuing to connect people with clean drinking water resources and information, supporting and amplifying the efforts of state and county health agencies through collaboration with local businesses and community organizations, and following the science to find long-term groundwater solutions in the region.
“The aim of H2OEO is first and foremost to make sure people have access to clean drinking water in their homes, today and into the future,” said H2OEO President Michael Graham, who is the senior director of operations in Boardman for Tillamook County Creamery Association. “There are programs and services available in Morrow and Umatilla counties, and our membership of employers and community organizations are well-positioned to be the boots on the ground to share that information. Water quality is a crucial and complex issue, and we need to have the entire community involved and engaged to find a long-term solution that works for everyone.”
H2OEO’s work is focused on the Lower Umatilla Basin Groundwater Management Area (LUBGWMA), a 562-square-mile region comprising northern Morrow County and northwestern Umatilla County. The LUBGWMA was created in 1990 to identify and implement practices to reduce nitrates in the groundwater of the geologically diverse area, an issue dating back decades.
Since its informal inception in 2022, the coalition has so far provided direct and indirect testing for 500 wells, distributed 1,000 one-gallon water jugs, helped install filtration systems, and provided information about clean water resources and programs.
“The businesses and organizations that are joining this effort are deeply connected with their communities and concerned about the long-term good of the region,” said H2OEO Secretary Jeff Wendler, who is the director of livestock operations at ThreeMile Canyon Farms. “Collaboration is the key to building trust and cooperation. We want to be a connection point that amplifies good information and potential solutions.”
H2OEO is coordinating with public health departments in Morrow and Umatilla counties and the Oregon Health Authority to help share information and resources, ensuring people have access to testing, water deliveries, and information about filtration systems and well maintenance. The coalition has also launched the www.h2oeo.org website to collect and share relevant resources for well users and as a platform for ongoing education about groundwater, nitrates, and well maintenance, and more.
Founding members of H2OEO are AWS, Beef Northwest, Boardman Foods, Calbee America, Lamb Weston, Oregon Potato Company, Threemile Canyon Farms, and Tillamook County Creamery Association.