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Malheur Basin and its tributaries record lowest water quality ratings in the state

Malheur County farmer Jerry Erstrom lauds such measures as sedimentation ponds along with furrow and sprinkler irrigation as good methods to cut down on soil erosion and help improve water quality. (The Enterprise/Max Egener).

WILLOWCREEK — The Malheur River basin has supported livestock grazing and irrigated agriculture since the 1930s. But runoff has taken a toll on waterways, leaving them half as clean as the average river in Oregon.

The Malheur River and its tributaries, including Willow Creek and Bully Creek, have received the lowest water quality ratings in the state for the last decade, according to data collected by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

The agency collects water quality data from rivers across the state every two months and provides a water quality score for each monitoring site along a river. The scores range from 10 to . . .