Protect Our Rivers

Protect our Rivers

 This fall, OSPIRG is working to protect Oregon’s waterways by restoring Clean Water Act protections to more than half of our state’s streams and thousands of acres of wetlands.

61,000 Miles at Risk

Every single Oregonian should be able to go fishing, swimming, or just enjoy his or her natural environment and local waterway without worrying about pollution preventing us from doing so or even worse, making us sick. Whether it’s floating down the Willamette, rafting on the Rogue, or swimming in the McKenzie, our rivers are a big part of what makes living in Oregon so great. And, beyond our own personal enjoyment, the iconic waterways that we all cherish and so many people depend on for clean drinking water should be protected forever. Oregonians care about protecting our beautiful environment here in the state.

Despite their beauty and importance to Oregonians, the local waterways that we love are at risk. In the last decade, two polluter-driven court decisions gutted the Clean Water Act and left more than half of Oregon’s streams open to unchecked pollution and development—the same streams that feed our rivers, like the mighty Rogue. This means 61,000 miles of streams—and the drinking water sources for nearly 1.8 million Oregonians—are unprotected from toxic dumping, development and more.

We need the EPA to restore critical Clean Water Act protections to ALL of our waterways, including the Willamette and our favorite local rivers.

How we’re working to Keep our Rivers Clean

Over the past several years, we’ve had more than 1 million face-to-face conversations on campuses and in communities across the country about the need to protect waterways. Finally, this spring, the US Environmental Protection Agency took a huge step toward protecting our waterways by proposing a rule to restore Clean Water Act protections to our streams and wetlands. Our goal this fall is to build the public support the EPA will need to get this rule over the finish line and keep our rivers clean.


From day one, Big Ag and America’s other biggest polluters  -- Exxon-Mobil, major developers and others are doing everything they can to block protections for our rivers.

It’s clear that if polluters win, our rivers will suffer. We know that we can’t compete with their lobbyists or their campaign contributions dollar for dollar. But the public is with us—and if we can build enough support, we can convince the EPA to protect our rivers for good. 

Demand for Change

The great news is that Oregon gets it – protecting our rivers is a no-brainer for Oregonians. With environmental groups, students, and small businesses all speaking up together, we can show the EPA that protecting our rivers is both a necessary and politically popular idea. This is already a big issue in Oregon, and OSPIRG is working to leverage this public support and enthusiasm for clean water into meaningful action.

How We Can Win

We have a huge opportunity to get the EPA to finalize this rule, but big polluters are pressuring them to back down. That’s why OSPIRG is working to show the public support that’s out there for protecting our waterways. We’re bringing together Oregonians who love our rivers in order to convince the EPA to keep moving forward with these protections. We’ll shine a spotlight on the issue in the media and release a report on the pollution in our waterways, and our student leaders and staff will build a broad coalition from professor experts to farmers to small business owners to urge federal decision-makers to protect waterways like the Willamette. On campus we will be collecting thousands of public comments from concerned students to submit to the EPA before the comment deadline October 20th. A few of the most exciting tactics we will use to demonstrate support include:

  • Collecting public comments in support of the EPA rulemaking
  • Collecting photos of students holding up signs that call for the protection of our waterways and delivering them to elected officials as a big “photo-petition”
  • Releasing our new report, Wasting Our Waterways, on the amount of pollution in the Willamette and other waterways across the state
  • Organizing small businesses, like farmers, outdoor recreation businesses, and coffee roasters, to add their voices to our call to action
  • Planning river clean-ups and rafting trips so students can get out and enjoy our waterways
  • Holding meetings with decision-makers to share our photo-petitions and other media hits we’ve generated over the term and make the case for restoring Clean Water Act protections now