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McKenzie River, Oregon, Source Water Quality Protection

Contact Kurt Carpenter
Cooperating Agency: City of Eugene, Oregon, Water and Electric Board
Location: McKenzie River Basin


The McKenzie River is an important recreational resource and a source of drinking water for thousands of people in Eugene, Oregon, and surrounding areas.

Drinking water for the city of Eugene, Oregon, is drawn from the McKenzie River, a high-quality source that is nonetheless threatened by urban, agricultural, and forestry land uses upstream as well as by changes in water management in the watershed. The Eugene Water and Electric Board (EWEB) developed a Drinking Water Source Protection plan for the McKenzie River Watershed that includes comprehensive monitoring and evaluation of potential threats to drinking water sources.

In 2002, the USGS Oregon Water Science Center began working with EWEB to monitor dissolved pesticides in the McKenzie River at the EWEB drinking water intake and upstream, and in tributaries draining to the McKenzie. In 2007, the USGS and EWEB entered into a 5-year agreement for continued cooperation in efforts to assess and monitor many of these upstream threats, and to further understand the relative risks posed by these threats relative to potential management actions.

The primary objective of this study is to study threats to drinking water quality and watershed health in the McKenzie River Basin in order to provide EWEB with information necessary to manage and protect its drinking water sources. Specific objectives or study elements may be modified from year to year as agreed upon in discussions between EWEB and USGS. The current objectives are:

  • Collect semiannual storm runoff pesticide data
  • Investigate sources of natural organic matter and disinfection by-product precursors
  • Sample for pesticides and organic wastewater compounds using passive samplers
  • (Potential) Sample for pharmaceuticals and sewage/septics in well water in shallow aquifer systems
  • Provide model support and development to help EWEB address a variety of management alternatives for McKenzie River water quality

For a more complete description of the study, follow this link.


Raw, preliminary data from passive samplers


Eugene Register Guard reports on the USGS-EWEB McKenzie River study


SIR 2013-5215. Integrated Passive Sampling as a Complement to Conventional Point-in-Time Sampling for Investigating Drinking-Water Quality, McKenzie River Basin, Oregon, 2007 and 2010–11, by Kathleen A. McCarthy and David A. Alvarez

SIR 2012-5091. Reconnaissance of Land-Use Sources of Pesticides in Drinking Water, McKenzie River, Oregon, by Valerie J. Kelly and Chauncey W. Anderson, U.S. Geological Survey, and Karl Morgenstern, Eugene Water and Electric Board

DS 692. Water-Quality Data from Semipermeable-Membrane Devices and Polar Organic Chemical Integrative Samplers Deployed in the McKenzie River Basin, Oregon, by Kathleen A. McCarthy and David A. Alvarez 

SIR 2009-5178. Evaluation of Passive Samplers for Long-Term Monitoring of Organic Compounds in the Untreated Drinking Water Supply for the City of Eugene, Oregon, September–October 2007, by Kathleen A. McCarthy, David Alvarez, Chauncey W. Anderson, Walter L. Cranor, Stephanie D. Perkins, and Vickie Schroeder.


SIR 2007-5164. Influence of Cougar Reservoir Drawdown on Sediment and DDT Transport and Deposition in the McKenzie River Basin, Oregon, Water Years 2002–04, by Chauncey W. Anderson.

SIR 2010-5016. Development of an Environmental Flow Framework for the McKenzie River Basin, Oregon, by John Risley, J. Rose Wallick, Ian Waite, and Adam Stonewall

Determining Sources of Dissolved Organic Carbon and Disinfection Byproduct Precursors to the McKenzie River, Oregon, by Tamara E. C. Kraus, Chauncey W. Anderson, Karl Morgenstern, Bryan D. Downing, Brian A. Pellerin, Brian A. Bergamaschi, in Journal of Environmental Quality.


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