Supporting Collaborative Conservation

Coordinating the Pure Water Partners

The Pure Water Partners (PWP) Program is a collaborative effort of organizations working to protect and restore the McKenzie River Watershed. In our role as coordinator and convenor for PWP, we are helping them chart a pathway towards a shared vision of the future – one that ensures high-quality drinking water for residents, abundant habitat for species, and a climate-resilient landscape.

How We are Charting a Path Forward

Through a series of facilitated workshops, Willamette Partnership helped the Pure Water Partners formalize their roles, responsibilities, and decision-making processes that resulted in the Pure Water Partners governance handbook. Along with a Memorandum of Agreement, these tools help the Pure Water Partners operate efficiently and transparently. 

Our role with PWP is to create and sustain a collaborative space for partners to design and implement a strategic, watershed-scale plan for their work. We help to define and document the processes by which they manage and communicate information, make decisions, prioritize projects on the ground, and measure and report progress. By bringing our strategic organizing and leadership capacity, we have given partners the capacity to do the planning and analysis needed to be forward-thinking, creative, and responsive to how they collectively and collaboratively achieve shared goals across the partner organizations.

The Pure Water Partners are a collection of agencies, organizations, and businesses that are working together to protect and restore water quality in the McKenzie River Watershed and maintain clean, healthy drinking water for the more than 200,000 people. More information at


What We’re Doing with PWP

In 2019, Willamette Partnership was selected as the first Pure Water Partners Coordinator. Our work ranges from organizing and leading monthly, multi-partner meetings, to designing their operating plan and workplan and bringing options to incorporate new decision support software to their planning processes. We are also helping the group to understand and build awareness of how to incorporate DEI into their work.

Project Background

Pure Water Partners Meeting

In December 2019, Willamette Partnership facilitated a series of stakeholder listening sessions for the Upper Willamette Soil and Water Conservation District to better understand the current landscape of agricultural and conservation programming in Eastern Lane County. These meetings supported the District’s exploration of a tax base initiative, a possible future funding source for the Pure Water Partners.

The McKenzie River, known as one of Oregon’s most pristine and healthy rivers, is the sole source of drinking water for nearly 200,000 residents in and around the City of Eugene, Oregon. While most of the land within the McKenzie River Watershed is National Forest land, the riparian corridors are largely in private ownership. These riparian areas are critical to buffering the river from human uses in the watershed, including forest harvest, agriculture, development, and transportation.

In 2010, Eugene Water & Electric Board’s Source Water Protection Program convened a collaborative stakeholder group to design and implement an incentive-based strategy to protect existing healthy riparian areas and restore degraded riparian forests along the McKenzie River through voluntary actions. This program, known as the Voluntary Incentives Program, was launched in 2014, and rebranded as the Pure Water Partners in 2016.

Over the past five years, partners collaborated to build the Pure Water Partners program by setting up a pilot project, recruiting landowners, performing initial landowner riparian assessments, and purchasing and rolling out a sophisticated accounting software system. In 2018, the Pure Water Partners began the next step in their collaborative effort: establishing the McKenzie Watershed Conservation Fund (“Fund”). The Fund will be used to provide financial support to the Pure Water Partners, with the goal of becoming a sustainable funding source.

Have questions about the Pure Water Partners?


Nicole Maness, Partner, Resilient Habitats
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Banner photo of McKenzie River, Koosah Falls in Willamette National Forest / USFS