Since establishing a Water Resources Survey in 1956, Douglas County has been very active in the management of its water resources. The Survey’s mission was to collect hydrologic data for use in monitoring and developing the Umpqua Basin’s water resources. The County’s program has evolved into one of the leading local resource management programs in the state and nation. In 1996 the Water Resources Survey was renamed the Natural Resources Division under the Public Works Department.

Galesville Dam and Reservoir
Galesville Dam and Reservoir

In addition to the collection of hydrographic data, the Natural Resources Division is responsible for the operation and maintenance of two water storage projects in the basin. Galesville Reservoir is located on upper Cow Creek and Ben Irving Reservoir is located on a tributary to upper Olalla Creek. Both projects provide reliable sources of stored water for irrigation, industrial, domestic, municipal and in-stream uses. Releases of stored water from each project during the summer and fall have greatly increased downstream flows. This flow augmentation improves aquatic habitat and lowers stream temperatures resulting in improved water quality and enhanced conditions for fish and wildlife resources. The Galesville project also produces hydroelectric power as an added benefit.

Berry Creek Dam and Reservoir
Ben Irving Reservoir

The Natural Resources Division is actively engaged with other agencies, including the United States Geological Survey, United States Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Oregon Water Resources Department, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, in planning additional water storage projects and conducting surface water studies.

Division personnel operate a county-wide stream gauging and precipitation monitoring network, manage hydroelectric power generation, distribute stored water from Galesville and Ben Irving reservoirs and also support the local Watermaster’s office in providing water rights information and assisting the public in applying for new rights.