River Dog Car about

Stormwater pollution is now our number one source of water pollution.

When it rains, pollutants from your home, car and garden wash into our rivers and streams.

Bacteria from uncollected dog waste washes into our rivers and streams.

Protect our water by picking up after your pets.

Motor oil, solvents, and soaps wash into our rivers and streams.

Protect our water by keeping car care chemicals out of storm drains.

The Regional Coalition for Clean Rivers and Streams

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The River Starts Here

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Water, whether from rain or hose, carries pollutants to our rivers and streams through storm drains, ditches and more direct means. The Regional Coalition for Clean Rivers and Streams, a partnership of public agencies in the Portland-Vancouver metropolitan area, is dedicated to educating the public about the impact of stormwater runoff pollution on the health of our rivers and streams. We can do a lot at home to reduce our impact. View the websites of our partners to get involved.

Our Partners

clackamas water environmental services
clean water services
city of milwaukie
oregon city
oak lodge water services
city of troutdale
multnomah county
city of gresham
city of lake oswego
city of gladstone
city of wilsonville
city of west linn

Our Rivers

Our rivers and streams are a way of life for all people who call the Pacific Northwest home. Originally, Oregon’s waterways were stewarded by more than 60 tribes who spoke more than 18 languages. As Euro-American settlers moved in and created cities and dammed rivers for hydroelectric power, the rivers and wildlife in Oregon have become imperiled.
Our Portland-Vancouver Metro area sits at the confluence of two large rivers, the Columbia and the Willamette, which are still migratory routes for endangered wild salmon.
It is not too late to take actions to ensure that wild salmon, lamprey, migrating birds, beavers, otters, amphibians, and many other animals continue to coexist with humans in these waterways. Learn more about how you are connected to these rivers by finding your watershed below.

Find Your River

View the OWEB Watershed Council map.

Why are rivers important?

Wildlife Habitat



Our local rivers are home to unique and precious wildlife. Portland has the most listed endangered species than any other major city in the United States. Although that may sound like bad news, it actually means our city has a lot of native fish and wildlife left to protect in our community. Learn more about three of our local wildlife that call the Portland Metro Area home.
A Multnomah County employee holds a net containing a steelhead fish.

The Portland-Vancouver-Gresham Metro Area is home to iconic fish species like Steelhead. Public servants and scientists regularly monitor our local rivers and streams for fish populations and macroinvertebrates (bugs). The diversity of bug types tells scientists about whether the water is very clean to very dirty.

A curved eel-like fish uses its mouth parts to latch onto a rock at the bottom of Johnson Creek.

Pacific Lamprey live in rivers throughout the Portland-Vancouver-Gresham Metro Area. These fish are a culturally significant First Food to Native American people and are also used for medicine. Populations declined as rivers were dammed. Today, Willamette Falls in Oregon City, is still an important location for tribes to fish for lamprey for ceremonial uses.

A black and orange spotted salamander sits curled on a bed of moss.

Oregon Slender Salamanders are native to Oregon and live in dark, moist forests along our rivers.

Recreation



People from throughout the world are drawn to the Pacific Northwest for our outdoor recreation. Clean rivers and streams provide ample opportunity to enjoy many water related recreational activities.

A group of George Middle School students laugh as they paddle on two canoes on the Columbia Slough at Kelly Point Park. The Columbia Slough Watershed Council offers many recreational opportunities like paddle programs and Slough School.

Portland and Vancouver’s waterways are excellent for canoeing, river rafting and kayaking.

A group of eight adults hold binoculars to their eyes while watching birds in a Portland natural area.

Local birds flock to waterways for breeding and foraging. Portland sits along the Pacific Flyway, making it a magnificent attraction for bird watching during migration. In fact, the Smith & Bybee wetland within the Columbia Slough watershed in Portland is the largest urban wetland in the United States.

A Healthy Streams Habitat informational sign sits in front of a wooded wetland in Tideman Johnson Park.

Our waterfront parks like Tideman Johnson Park along the Springwater Corridor, provide great opportunities for hiking, biking and skating.

Clean drinking water



Our cities pride themselves on clean and local water sources. Oregonians and Washingtonians source their drinking water from both surface water and underground sources. Your actions can have a big impact on the water we drink. By protecting our local waterways, you are protecting our community’s health and wellness. Learn more about your local water source.

A Bull Run reservoir is surrounded by mountains and conifer trees. The reservoir contains two towers for drinking water extraction

Bull Run reservoirs holds the City of Portland’s drinking water

Two people release a turtle into a clean river.

The Trask and Tualatin Rivers provide high quality drinking water to people throughout Washington County

Clear water rushes over rocky riffles in a winding basin.

The Clackamas River provides clean drinking water for cities including Estacada, Gladstone, Law Oswego, Tigard and more.

A person kneels on a river rock near a stream, using a syringe to transfer stream water into a testing kit.

City of Gresham scientist tests local streams for pollutants. Pollutants include heavy metals, by-products from cars, and pesticides from lawns. Our public servants and scientists monitor our rivers and streams to keep our communities healthy.

And so much more…

Tell us why our rivers matter to you on social media with #TheRiverStartsHere.

What threatens our rivers?

A roadside swale fills with dirty water, sediment and leaves. Growing sedges and rushes help filter and absorb this water.

Roadside swales help catch and filter polluted stormwater from our roads.

A young person leans over a curb-side storm drain to mark it with a 'no dumping' sign.

Storm drains like this one drain directly to our rivers and streams. You may notice storm drain markers like these remind people to keep pollutants out of drains. Want to volunteer to mark storm drains near your home? Reach out to your local department that manages stormwater.

It rains a lot in our region. In fact, we receive 42-56 inches of rain in an average year. In a forest, soil and plants would absorb all the rain. But in the city, hard surfaces like parking lots, roads and roofs can’t absorb water. Instead, rain washes over these surfaces and becomes stormwater. Stormwater picks up pollutants such as dirt, oil and bacteria along its journey. By the time this fast-moving stormwater reaches our local rivers and streams, it can cause erosion, flooding and harm to wildlife. We can reduce the harm stormwater does to our rivers and streams by slowing and filtering water with trees, native plants, and permeable surfaces like swales.
In our community, stormwater runoff is now the number one source of water pollution. To keep our rivers and streams healthy, we all have to do our part. Visit the River Starts Here pages to learn more about how you can reduce your impact.

The River Starts in Your Home home icon

The river starts with you! By taking a few easy steps in your home, you can keep our rivers and streams clean and healthy for generations to come. Learn more about how to support clean water in your community by watching videos and taking actions below.

How You Can Help

Use green cleaning products



Keep harmful chemicals away from kids, pets and waterways by making your own green cleaning products at home. Learn how to make your own non-toxic cleaners.

Baking soda, vinegar and earth friendly cleanser can all be used to make non-toxic cleaners.

Keep harmful products out of your drains



Flushing household items like medications can be harmful to animals in our local rivers and streams. Non-flushable items like “flushable” wipes can also cause big clogs in our sewer system. We need a functioning sewer system to keep your water bills low and toilets working. Learn how to recycle harmful household products.

Colorful medications

Conserve water



Saving water is good for everyone! Not only does it keep our rivers and wildlife healthy, but it can save you money on your water bill.Learn more about how to conserve water in your home and yard.

A metal tap drips into a porcelain sink

The River Starts in Your Yard  watering can yard icon

The river starts with you! By taking a few easy steps in your yard, you can keep our rivers and streams clean and healthy for generations to come. Learn more about how to support clean water in your community by watching videos and taking actions below.

How You Can Help

Scoop the poop



Pet waste in your backyard ends up polluting rivers and streams. Scoop your pet’s poop in your yard and don’t forget to follow leash and scoop laws in parks.

A small dog happily bounds through a lawn.

Bacteria from pet waste can send up in our rivers and streams. Scoop your poop to protect our clean water.

Avoid pesticides



Pesticides contain dangerous chemicals that can end up in our rivers and streams and be harmful to children and pets. Sign the healthy lawn and garden pledgeand get your free yard sign.

A mother and baby play on a pesticide-free lawn beside their Pesticide Free Zone sign.

The Healthy Lawn and Garden Pledge keeps your family healthy and safe.

Plant native plants



Native plants save water, support native wildlife, are low maintenance and are beautiful. Sign up for the Backyard Habitat Certification Program to start planting natives in your yard. You can also follow many of our partners, like your local Soil and Water Conservation District, to learn about upcoming native plant sales and classes.

A certified backyard habitat thrives with maidenhair fern, sword fern and a flowering rhododendron.

This thriving backyard habitat supports native birds, pollinators and beneficial insects.

Build a rain garden



Ecoroofs, rain gardens and downspout disconnections all help filter and absorb rain water. Not to mention, they are beautiful! These features can help naturally filter pollutants they may come from roofs, roads or pets. Learn how to build your own rain garden.

A rain garden filled with native sedges and grasses features a Rain Garden at Work sign.

This rain garden helps absorb rain water and runoff.

Wash your car the green way



The safest way to wash your car is at your local car wash. If you choose to wash your car at home, be sure to wash it in an area that absorbs water (such as gravel or grass), capture soapy runoff and prevent any grease or soaps from entering the storm drain. Get more car washing tips or watch an informational video.

: Five youth show off a colorful pavement mural that reads “water is life”

Keep our rivers and streams clean by taking your car to a car wash or being extra careful to capture any soapy or greasy runoff in your yard.

The River Starts in Your Watershed  canoe watershed icon

The river starts with you! By taking a few easy steps in your watershed, you can keep our rivers and streams clean and healthy for generations to come. Learn more about how to support clean water in your community by watching videos and taking actions below.

How You Can Help

Learn about your watershed



Everyone belongs to a watershed. Everything we do in our home, yard and neighborhood can impact our local rivers. Learn more about your watershed by visiting Our Rivers map.

A photo of Fairview headwaters featuring clean waters, native trees and thriving reeds.

Learn more about what makes your watershed unique.

Volunteer with your local watershed council



River clean ups, tree plantings and wildlife surveys are fun for the whole family. Find your local watershed council by visiting Our Rivers map.

A young child uses a shovel to dig a hole for a native plant.

Your local watershed council plants thousands of trees each year along our rivers and streams.

Volunteer with a local clean water nonprofit



In addition to your local watershed council, we are lucky to have many nonprofits in our neighborhoods committed to clean rivers and streams. Friends of Trees, Willamette Riverkeeper, Columbia Land Trust or your local park group are great organizations to volunteer your time.

Four teens dig holes for a green space planting with local nonprofit Friends of Trees.

During the spring and fall, many local nonprofits host tree and shrub planting events that are fun for the whole family.

Volunteer with a local government



Our local governments work hard to keep local rivers and streams clean. Many of them have volunteer programs for residents to become a green street steward, mark storm drains, plant native plants and more! Want to pitch it? Find your local government in our partners list.

Three teens in 'Green Gresham, Healthy Gresham' shirts look at a map of local residents to visit on a canvassing trip.

Three Summer Works interns work with the City of Gresham on outreach for local clean river programs.

The River Starts in Your Community  community neighborhood icon

The river starts with you! By taking a few easy steps in your watershed, you can keep our rivers and streams clean and healthy for generations to come. Learn more about how to support clean water in your community by watching videos and taking actions below.

How You Can Help

Attend a community event



Join our partners at science talks, salmon surveys and educational workshops. Visit our Events Calendar to learn about upcoming community events.

A group of community members carry trash bags filled with waste while standing knee deep in Johnson Creek at the annual Johnson Creek Clean Up.

The Annual Johnson Creek Clean Up is a fun and “hands on” way to volunteer your time for clean rivers.

Leave no trace in parks and natural areas



Protect our water and wildlife by following Leave No Trace principles in parks. Learn more about Leave No Trace.

A group of community members carry trash bags filled with waste while standing knee deep in Johnson Creek at the annual Johnson Creek Clean Up.

You can practice Leave No Trace principles by attending clean up events like those run by SOLVE Oregon.

Drive less – walk, bike or take public transit



Many pollutants in our rivers come from cars. Cars leak, produce exhaust, and spread toxic particles each time you brake. These pollutants wash into roadside gutters and eventually into our rivers and streams. You can protect our rivers by taking active transportation whenever possible. Learn about how to bike and walk in your neighborhood.

A group of ten pose with their bikes in central Hillsboro.

Portlanders of all ages will love bike events like Sunday Parkways.

Support eco-friendly businesses in your community



Looking to hire a landscaper, repair your car or get a car wash? EcoBiz certifies eco-friendly businesses and can help you make the green choice.

A person washes a car’s tire hub with a soapy sponge over a lawn

Keep our rivers and streams clean by taking your car to a car wash or being extra careful to capture any soapy or greasy runoff in your yard.