Conservation groups launch fundraising effort for Warm Springs water restoration

A coalition of eight conservation organizations have joined with the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, MRG Foundation, and Warm Springs Action Team to mobilize immediate and long-term action to remediate the growing water emergency.

The Chúush: Water for Warm Springs Campaign accepts contributions that will directly assist the tribes in restoring access to and infrastructure for clean water.

The communities of Warm Springs are now in the second year of a devastating water emergency due to a series of pressure breaks in key community water lines.

Over 60% of Warm Springs residents do not have regular, consistent access to clean water for personal or domestic use.

The crumbling water infrastructure is a public health crisis, exacerbated by climate change and the ongoing global health crisis—both disproportionately affecting Native communities.

Conservation groups’ efforts to leverage widespread community support for the Chúush Fund is an extension of the land and water stewardship that the Warm Springs Tribe has modeled since existence.

Chúush: Water for Warm Spring Campaign – Participating Organizations

●      Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs

●      MRG Foundation

●      Warm Springs Community Action Team

●      Blue Mountain Land Trust 

●      Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts 

●      Columbia Land Trust 

●      Columbia Riverkeeper 

●      Deschutes Land Trust 

●      Friends of the Columbia Gorge 

●      The Nature Conservancy of Oregon 

●      Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility

“In a first-of- its-kind partnership of its kind between a foundation and a Tribal Nation, MRG is honored to be the steward of the funds raised from generous folks across the country to help repair and restore the water infrastructure at the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Indian Reservation of Oregon,” said MRG Foundation Executive Director Se-ah-dom Edmo, Shoshone-Bannock, Nez Perce, and Yakama.

In July 2019, the Oregon legislature earmarked $7.8 million in Oregon Lottery funds for water infrastructure repairs on the reservation.

But due to a sharp decline in gambling revenues resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, state officials reduced support.

In July, 2020, Oregon’s emergency board unanimously approved $3.58 million from state reserves to start addressing the water crisis. The fund must be spent by the end of 2020, offering just a fraction of repairs needed, estimated near $200 million.

“The water crisis prompts not only health concerns among Warm Springs community members, but creates a deep-seated anxiety about the viability of building a life on the reservation. Would you buy or construct a new home in a place where you had to boil your water before you drank it? Would you start a business in a place without a safe, reliable water system?” asked Chris Watson, executive director for the Warm Springs Community Action Team—a non-profit community development organization located on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation.

“Warm Springs community members have to think about these kinds of things when deciding on their futures. Until this problem is solved, they’ll continue to live with these concerns, and to feel uncertain and anxious about the future of their community. And Oregonians must do all they can to help restore access and infrastructure for reliable, clean water,” Watson added.

“While most of us in Central Oregon take our water supply for granted, the Warm Springs community currently cannot,” said Brad Chalfant founding director of Deschutes Land Trust. “That’s why we have joined together with some of the Northwest’s leading conservation groups to partner with the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Tribal community activists, and leaders at the state and federal level to help return reliable and safe water access to the people of Warm Springs.”

Launched this October after a series of early fall partner conversations, the Chúush: Water for Warm Spring Campaign’s goals are two-fold: strengthen available financial resources to meet immediate, emergency health needs and advocate for policy solutions needed to help the people of Warm Springs restore their access and infrastructure for clean water.

To date, The Chúush Fund has raised roughly $500,000 in response to ongoing community water needs.

The fund was approved by the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Tribal Council by resolution and a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Tribe and MRG Foundation.

The MRG Foundation transfers the total amount in the fund to the Tribe each month.

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