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MailTribune.com
  • Water Commission's role should go beyond selling more

  • Judging from an editorial in the Mail Tribune on Nov. 8, it was obvious to me that the paper feels the small towns in the valley relying on Medford Water Commission service should be thankful for what they have. We are thankful, but we should still be informed and active consumers who work to provide more efficient service in the future.
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  • Judging from an editorial in the Mail Tribune on Nov. 8, it was obvious to me that the paper feels the small towns in the valley relying on Medford Water Commission service should be thankful for what they have. We are thankful, but we should still be informed and active consumers who work to provide more efficient service in the future.
    The MT implied that Medford and Phoenix residents use "very close" to the same amount of water. That is not true and goes against the figures cited the day before in their own published article. In it, reporter Damian Mann noted that after removing industrial users, Medford uses an average of 120 gallons a day per residence while Phoenix uses an average of 97 gallons per day. That means Medford residents use 23.7 percent more water per household on average. That amount is considered highly statistically significant no matter how you try to dismiss it.
    This difference is likely much larger as we are now finding that the commission may have been unintentionally overcharging Phoenix as much as 10 percent to 15 percent more for water than we have been receiving for many years because of a faulty meter on the TAP pipeline. Medford has more industry because they have a tremendous competitive advantage since they control the water when large water-using businesses consider locating here.
    The MT opinion states "there is nothing wrong with conservation." True, but not conserving our natural resources is unacceptable. I recognize the Water Commission's duty to the people of Medford, but it also seems to be to sell more and more water. Real conservation actions, including high user rates and not just fliers and slogans, could provide substantial benefits for us all. That will be true only if and when the Water Commission leads the way.
    Ashland has found with its current 5 percent conservation rate, it can delay the need to connect to the Talent-Ashland-Phoenix pipeline until 2038 for anything except disaster needs. The city also projects that if it can achieve a 15 percent conservation level, it can delay connection until 2062.
    The Medford Water Commission and the cities it serves could conceivably achieve similar results in delaying the building of a new treatment plant. What sane rationale can be offered to not try?
    The Water Commission stated it should not be part of a "cooperative" that gives it an equal vote with the other cities. I totally agree, but would point out that this is a faulty description of our request. We were not asking to have a formal vote on the Water Commission board, to stop planning on a new treatment plant or for cuts in our rates. We just proposed to come together to discuss how we might all benefit through greater cooperation, joint planning and shared learning.
    In my opinion, the following actions would most benefit the valley as well as the people of its own headlines of last week to the actual facts of the issue; the Medford City Council should appoint forward-thinking, visionary board members in the future and not just maintain the status quo; and the Medford Water Commission and 6 cities it serves (Medford, Eagle Point, Phoenix, Talent, Central Point and Jacksonville), should work as a team to conserve, share and learn in order to best plan for the future. As the governor and the rest of the state stress the need for Regional Problem Solving, the Medford Water Commission should look beyond its current desires to what is needed for the region its members live in.
    Jeff Bellah is the mayor of Phoenix.
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