What is a Watershed Council?

What is a Watershed?

No matter where you are, a watershed surrounds you. A watershed is the area of land that collects and drains water to a common water body, such as a river or lake. The boundary of a watershed is determined by the shape of the land (ie topography). When it rains, the water travels from the high points over natural and manmade terrain toward the lowest point. Homes, working farms and ranches, forests, towns and cities can all be a part of the land that makes up a watershed where the water drains into a common point.

Sometimes called a drainage or basin, a watershed can cover a large multi-state area like the Columbia River Watershed, or a relatively small area like a stream, pond, or wetland. Large watersheds are made of smaller watersheds, often called sub-basins or sub-watersheds.

Watershed conservation is an important part of long-term planning for a community’s quality of life. A healthy watershed supplies clean water for drinking and irrigation, working farms and ranches that grow food and agricultural products, and healthy forest stands for timber and wood products. Healthy watersheds also provide valuable wildlife and recreational areas where children and adults can spend time outdoors hiking, biking, fishing, hunting, and experiencing nature. For these reasons and many more, conserving local land, water, fish, and wildlife protects the health of our community for generations to come.


What is a Watershed Council? 

The creation of the GYWC is part of an ongoing, long-term initiative, developed by the Oregon Legislature and Oregon Governor's Office, which seeks to create a statewide Network of Oregon Watershed Councils (NOWC).

Oregon Watershed Councils, as defined by Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS 541.890 – 541.972are local, non-government, non-regulatory entities organized and managed by local community members, and dedicated to working in partnership with public, private, and tribal stakeholders to implement the Governor's Oregon Plan for Salmon & Watersheds (Oregon Plan). 

Oregon Watershed Council operations and projects are funded in significant contribution from competitive grants awarded through the State's Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB), a grant-funding state agency supported by Oregon Lottery dollars.

From 1996 - Present, GYWC has been awarded competitive OWEB grants to help fund our basic operations and the implementation of specific watershed projects, such as habitat restoration, water quality monitoring, fish population studies, and community education & outreach.

A watershed council is a grass-roots organization dedicated to helping local communities help their land. Watershed councils empower communities to identify natural resource issues in their local area and to implement voluntary, collaborative solutions to local issues. The collaborative partnerships and local efforts of Councils have a tremendous impact statewide.

Watershed councils exist across the world, but Oregonians are unique in our dedication to support the capacity and effectiveness of local watershed councils. In the early 1990’s, the Governor of Oregon established the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB) to provide a state-coordinated competitive grant funding program to support watershed councils across the entire state of Oregon. In 2010, Oregon voters passed Ballot Measure 76  which allocated a permanent funding source for OWEB and Oregon's Watershed Councils to continue to thrive. 

Nearly every square mile of Oregon is now represented by a community-based, locally-driven watershed council! We work to unite diverse community stakeholders under a shared vision healthy watersheds and high quality local natural resources. Typcial community stakeholders include  landowners, residents, businesses, nonprofits, special districts, tribal, local, state and federal governments (among many other types of interests).

Councils do not have governmental or regulatory authority. We are dedicated to working with people and all watershed council's in Oregon implement projects with our communities on an entirely voluntary-basis. Since the service areas of Councils are defined by geographic drainages, Councils also provide a unique opportunity to unite communities across governmental adminstration boundaries, such as city and county limits. 


Learn More about Oregon's Watershed Councils