Extensive field research and study has shown that the groundwater underlying south Deschutes County is threatened by continued use of traditional onsite wastewater treatment systems (standard, pressure distribution and sand filter systems). In addition, the La Pine National Demonstration Project showed that new types of onsite systems can protect the groundwater in a manner that meets the adopted Comprehensive Plan goals for Regional Problem Solving for South Deschutes County. 

Beginning with a working group recommending a specific rule for south Deschutes County (Recommendation for Action and Consideration of a Geographic Rule, 1999)  and continuing with the recommendation of an advisory committee (TDC Technical Advisory Committee) that met between July 2005 and April 2006, Deschutes County proposes to adopt a program to reduce the amount of pollution that are discharged from wastewater treatment systems, especially nitrogen. In addition, natural groundwater and surface water recharge patterns are maintained in this holistic approach to watershed-scale management of groundwater pollution loads in the La Pine Sub-basin.

Groundwater Protection Project Goals:

Recognizing that existing development and future growth can render groundwater resources in the La Pine sub-basin unusable, Deschutes County has focused on the following goals:

  1. Prevent a moratorium on development;
  2. Protect the primary, and currently high quality, source of drinking water for the residents in south Deschutes County;
  3. Use extensive data and results to manage pollution so that financial and environmental impacts to residents in the La Pine sub-basin of the upper Deschutes River Watershed are minimized.

Local Rule for Groundwater Protection:

The Board of County Commissioners adopted Ordinance 2008-012 and Resolution 2008-021 on July 23, 2008.  The new County Code was rescinded based on the outcome of a county-wide vote on March 10, 2009.

The new code would have required property owners to take groundwater protection actions to maintain and enhance the quality of the region's drinking water supply and rivers, including:

  • the use of advanced onsite systems, connection to sewer or other approach that protects groundwater quality
  • the use of groundwater protection measures on all properties by November 2022

Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products

Drugs in Drinking Water:

There has been a lot of coverage in the press lately about finding traces of prescription drugs and other personal care products in rivers across the nation and around the world. But did you know that the US Geological Survey performed a study right here in Deschutes County to study how these compounds and viruses move through soil and groundwater? The study first sampled septic tanks to find out what pharmaceuticals are found in septic tank discharges. Then the study looked at how well soils treat for drugs, bacteria and viruses. What the USGS found was that soil does a great job at removing pharmaceuticals, personal care products and microscopic organisms. The USGS completed a study in south Deschutes County in 2005 where one of the main findings was that samples taken right below septic system drainfields "demonstrated that organic wastewater compounds are mostly attenuated after unsaturated-zone transport of 1 foot." (Check the link to Pharmaceuticals and Coliphage in Ground Water.)