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State of the Watersheds monitoring report

Planning and conservation    Regional planning and policy    Nature in Neighborhoods    Protecting habitat and water    State of the Watersheds report

The State of the Watersheds monitoring report tracks and monitors the health of our regional watersheds over time. This report helps determine the region's success protecting wildlife habitat and water quality.

We all live in a watershed

What is a watershed? A watershed is any area of land from which water and materials drain to a common point, such as a stream, river, pond, lake or ocean. Large watersheds contain a series of smaller watersheds. Under this loose definition, the entire planet is our largest watershed, draining to the world's oceans.

Why Metro measures watershed health

The Metro Council is committed to making the communities and neighborhoods of the Portland metropolitan area extraordinary places to live, work and play. The Council has established policies and funded programs dedicated to preserving natural areas, limiting development of farm and forest lands outside the region's urban growth boundary and protecting and enhancing nature in neighborhoods.

The purpose of the State of the Watersheds report is to establish the baseline, or existing, conditions of the region's watersheds and to track these conditions over time using science-based, repeatable indicators. The watershed monitoring program was established in 2005 by the Metro Council as part of Nature in Neighborhoods (Title 13). In addition to monitoring, Nature in Neighborhoods also spurred investments in natural area land acquisition, technical assistance programs to increase habitat-friendly development practices and outreach to homeowners and residents about individual actions that reduce waste and keep our air and water clean.

The Metro Council is constantly evaluating the effectiveness of all these Nature in Neighborhoods programs. State of the Watershed reports provide a snapshot that helps inform the Council's evaluation and identify trends over time. This is the second report; the first was published in 2006. With results due at the end of each even-numbered year for ten years, the Metro Council will use this report and other information to revisit the region's effectiveness in protecting water quality and habitat for fish and wildlife and recommend policy changes if needed. The report results are also intended to help inform the conservation efforts of cities and counties, watershed councils, nonprofits, residents and other local and regional audiences.

State of the Watersheds 2008

The 2008 report updates and improves the information included in the initial report. The 2006 State of the Watersheds report documented baseline conditions in the Metro region based on the best information available at the time. Since then, Metro has acquired new technology to gather high-quality tree cover data, repeatable over time, using aerial photography. As a result of this new available data, baseline conditions have been re-calculated and those results are presented in the 2008 report.

Two indicators – those tracking floodplain conditions and rare habitats or "Habitats of Concern" – do not depend on the new data. The 2008 report does track 2-year trends for these important indicators. The 2008 report consists of the following:

Introduction and background

Briefly describes what is in the 2008 report. Describes the key changes in monitoring techniques and data since the 2006 report was issued. Summarizes the objectives and indicators that Metro has established for the monitoring program.

Indicator results

Provides a brief description of each of the ten watershed health indicators being tracked in this monitoring program and provides 2008 results. Also within this section is an easy reference to tables, figures and maps that provide details about each indicator. 

This data is the bulk of the report. Indicators are first described at the regional level and then at the smaller watershed level. New in the 2008 report -- the data is also provided at the jurisdicational level. This means that each indicator is being tracked for individual cities and counties (within the Metro boundary), for each of the 31 watersheds in the region and for the region as a whole.

The Metro Council set specific targets for key indicators over a ten year period (ending in 2015). For some indicators, the desire is to increase the resource. For others, the desire is to limit losses of the resource. For example, the target is for vegetation closest to streams to increase by 10 percent throughout the region. For undeveloped floodplains, the aim is to limit loss of these areas. While some habitat areas have changed since the first State of the Watershed report was issued in 2006, current rates indicate that the region is on track to meet the Metro Council's established targets at the regional level.


  • The new indicator results show that for an urban area, our region has provided relatively effective protection for streams, although improvement is possible and needed. For example, region-wide about 77 percent of the area within 150 feet of streams and wetlands is covered by trees and other plants. New tree cover data, used in this report for the first time this year, shows that the region has more than 30 percent tree cover for the entire urban area.
  • Some areas of the region are expected to change more over time than others. Targets for each indicator are meant to be met region-wide. For example, in the city of Portland, most areas are already developed and little change is expected. Newly urbanizing areas, such as Damascus, can be expected to see more increases in development and some corresponding loss of natural resources.
  • Different areas present different opportunities to improve habitat and water quality. In highly urban areas, street trees, backyard habitat and redevelopment provide excellent potential for improving watershed health. In newly developing areas, master planning, zoning codes and policies preserving natural resources are likely to have a strong effect. In all areas, restoration provides a key tool for improving water quality and wildlife habitat.

Despite the current economic condition, population in the Portland area is rapidly rising. Where and how we grow will make all the difference to our region's water quality and wildlife habitat and to our own quality of life.

Graphs and tables

These two sections, Data Graphs and Data Tables, visually depict the indicator data and include tables and graphs for easy comparisons about conditions across jurisdictions and watersheds.


The last section of the report includes maps showing watershed boundaries, vegetation cover, high value habitat (including habitats of concern), and water quality conditions by stream reach. Larger, more detailed maps are available by request.

Related Documents

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Lori Hennings

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