Carpe Diem West network team analyzes outcomes of source water protection pilot
Carpe Diem West put together a team of experts to assist Eugene Water & Electric Board (EWEB) in analyzing the outcomes and lessons learned of their McKenzie Watershed Voluntary Incentives Program pilot project (VIP). Our team made recommendations specific to EWEB, but also identified elements of the program that could be transferred to other watersheds and characteristics of communities that would be likely candidates for a VIP program of their own. We know there are members in our network who are looking to adopt similar programs and could benefit from the insights into EWEB’s VIP – see the team’s recommendations below!
The McKenzie VIP consists of the following components:
- Watershed Conservation Fund
- Riparian assessment, metrics, scoring, reference sites (landowner pathway/process)
- Landowner agreements (easements, management plan)
- Incentives (payments, business discounts, work crews)
- Communications, outreach, marketing (annual events, dashboard, logo contest)
- Monitoring (site level and watershed level)
The team noted that any component of the VIP could be transferred to a different watershed when tailored to that community but may include a reorganization of the roles that different collaborative partners play. For example, the local water utility may not have the trust of local landowners, but the Soil and Water Conservation District could take the lead role in implementing the VIP. Where the Cascade Pacific Resource Conservation & Development is managing the McKenzie Watershed Conservation Fund, any entity that has the ability to receive, disburse, and track funds, and report metrics back to funders could take on managing the fund in another community.
A communications strategy may be the most readily transferrable component of the VIP. Having the right messages in place could make building other VIP components easier in a new community. It is also the least risky component a community can implement in terms of legal and financial commitments.
Our team identified a number of community characteristics that would aid in the adoption of VIP programs in other watersheds.
It is critical that the provider of the resource be able to make the connection between watershed health and water supply security to ratepayers and decision makers. Even if the utility is not the best messenger to community members, they need to support the program.
Sense of Urgency
A sense of urgency to prevent degradation of water supplies or, particularly in the West, water scarcity is a main driver for program support.
Well-respected members of the community, such as local politicians, can help make the public case for source water protection.
Drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater utilities can work together through a “one water” approach to leverage different funding streams available to each.
US Forest Service Partners
Many municipal watersheds begin on National Forest land. A working relationship with the US Forest Service is key to working at the watershed scale and may open up restoration opportunities and funding streams, such as through stewardship contracting.
Local land grant institutions or law schools are an excellent resource for a community exploring implementing a VIP. A near-by state university with a professor publishing on topics like source water protection is a natural partner. Universities can build research capacity and awareness for the program, as well as conduct and analyze surveys of landowners and ratepayers.
What other characteristics make a community a prime location for a source water protection program like the VIP? Let us know in the comments below!
Kristiana Teige Witherill
March 16, 2016