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Restoring Cold Water in the Willamette River

Restoring Cold Water in the Willamette River

Helping water utilities invest where it matters most for fish.

The Willamette Valley is home to two-thirds of Oregon’s population and over thirty species of native fish, including endangered Chinook salmon and steelhead trout. Like many big rivers, the Willamette is heating up, and that’s bad for salmon and cutthroat trout, the Northwest’s most iconic fish species. Federal and state requirements protect fish that need cold water as they travel upstream from the ocean to spawn. That can mean costly investments for the facilities, and higher rates for the residents and businesses, to process and cool the water before it’s released back into the river. We’re helping utilities, regulators, and conservation groups make cost-effective investments to lower water temperature in places in the Willamette River where fish need them most.

The wastewater treatment and industrial facilities that process our warm water have Clean Water Act permits that many restrictions including how warm the water released can be when released back into the river. Under current policies, the common conventional option for treatment facilities is to install a multimillion-dollar chiller (think: giant cooling tower), despite massive costs to ratepayers and minimal benefit to fish. If water utilities could invest in restoration to meet their permit obligations around water temperature, they could save money and millions of dollars could flow to restoring cold water for native fish in a resilient Willamette River. The Association of Clean Water Agencies, Willamette Partnership, and other partners are working to make the right choice the easy choice, by building momentum and consensus around a path forward to make restoration for regulatory compliance possible.

Current Initiatives

Get in touch about restoring cold water in the Willamette River.

Kristiana Teige Witherill staff photo


Kristiana Teige Witherill, Partner, Natural Infrastructure
email |
office | 503.946.1904

We’re facilitating a national dialogue on how to improve consistency, innovation, and integrity in water quality trading.