Oregon Water Resources Commission declines to protect groundwater from unlimited use by mega-dairies despite significant support for restrictions

Salem, OR – On December 15th, the Oregon Water Resources Commission unanimously denied a rulemaking petition submitted by Stand Up to Factory Farms that would limit the amount of water mega-dairies can use without a permit under an exemption for “stockwatering” in two critical groundwater areas in Umatilla and Morrow counties. The petition requested the Commission limit the unpermitted use of groundwater for stockwatering to 5,000 gallons per day for all new and expanded uses – the same limit that already applies to commercial and industrial use without a permit. Limiting groundwater extraction is necessary to protect the long-term groundwater supply in overdrafted areas of Eastern Oregon, where mega-dairies are proliferating.

The denial came over the objection of more than 1,000 community members who filed comments urging the Commission to grant the petition. Only 4 comments (including from industry groups) asked for the petition to be denied. 

In response, Cristina Stella of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, a member of the Stand Up to Factory Farms coalition issued the following statement

“While we are disappointed with the Commission’s decision, its acknowledgement of the importance of curbing mega-dairies’ potential to misuse Oregon’s groundwater resources is a promising first step in future regulation of this industry.”

“It is clear that the protection of Oregon’s water resources is very important to Oregonians who wish to see the Commission take action to protect our water resources from mega-dairies. We will continue to work to ensure the Commission abides by their commitment to address these critical issues in the coming years.”  

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