Voluntary Incentives Program
Stream and lush, green foliage

EWEB is developing a new drinking water source protection strategy that will reward rural landowners who maintain high quality land along the river, helping to protect water quality in the McKenzie Watershed and avoid future water treatment costs.

Under the Voluntary Incentive program (VIP), landowners with property that meets specific standards will qualify to receive annual payments. The payments will reward outstanding land stewardship benefiting the residents of Eugene, whose source of drinking water is the McKenzie River.

Program funding

EWEB seeks to set up a fund with sustainable financing to support payments for all participating landowners and funding restoration and protection activities per landowner agreements. Financing may come from a variety of sources including existing utility rates, business sponsorship, development impact fees, state and federal mitigation programs, and grants from foundations.

EWEB in October 2013 received $150,000 in funding from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board to conduct a VIP pilot program in 2014. EWEB received an additional $146,000 following the pilot project to make needed modifications and adjustments to the VIP prior to full rollout.


EWEB has established a stewardship boundary identifying riparian forests and floodplains that are eligible to enroll in the VIP. Participation will be open to private landowners, local governments and non-profit organizations who own land within the designated boundary.

Based on the boundary, approximately 13,000 acres of riparian and floodplain areas along the McKenzie and major tributaries will be eligible to enroll. Land within the stewardship boundary will need to meet a threshold in order to receive protection payments. This threshold will be determined by assessing and comparing landowner properties to established reference sites in the McKenzie Watershed using a field protocol developed by The Freshwater Trust. Landowners not eligible for protection payments can enter VIP for restoration of degraded riparian areas allowing them to become eligible in the future.

Landowner engagement

EWEB is interested in feedback from landowners around the development of the new Voluntary Incentives Program.

In spring 2013, we hosted several public meetings for landowners interested in learning more.

In addition, a smaller Landowner Advisory Committee met once a month to provide more detailed input and feedback on the design of the program as it is being developed.

See meeting agendas, notes and presentations

Media coverage

Valuing natural resources

Maintaining healthy land and ecosystems along rivers reduces downriver water treatment costs. EWEB has conducted the following studies to help establish these connections:

  • EWEB hired Earth Economics to conduct a watershed valuation that assigns dollar values for natural processes that benefit society.
  • EWEB has collected daily data on treatment costs and turbidity since 2004. Turbidity is cloudiness caused by individual particles, and is one test of water quality. A preliminary review of this data shows a strong correlation between increased turbidity and increased treatment costs.
  • The University of Oregon and Oregon State University have conducted a series of surveys with EWEB customers and landowners. The surveys were designed to measure the understanding of valuing natural processes, and the acceptance for using rates to reward rural landowners who maintain healthy riparian forests as a source protection strategy to avoid future costs.

Email us for more information, or call Nancy Toth at 541-685-7438 or Karl Morgenstern at 541-685-7365.