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City mandates lower water use

By Vickie Aldous

Ashland Daily Tidings

The city of Ashland will institute stage one of mandatory water curtailment on Tuesday morning.

Water customers who use more than the alloted amount will have to pay four times the regular rate on any excess water.

A typical house will be allowed 897.6 gallons per day, according to the city's Water Curtailment Ordinance.

An average person uses about 100 gallons a day for inside uses like showering, drinking, washing clothes and dishes, cooking and flushing the toilet, City Administrator Martha Bennett said.

Most water used in the summer is for irrigating lawns, gardens and landscaping.

The most effective way for people to meet the water curtailment standards is to cut their outside watering by 50 percent, according to city officials.

"If they would just water half as much, we would be OK," Bennett said.

City officials are also asking people not to fill swimming pools and to not wash vehicles.

Earlier this month, city officials asked residents to voluntarily cut their water use by 20 percent. Residents met that goal, but since then, even less water is flowing out of the Ashland Watershed and into Reeder Reservoir.

The amount of water flowing into the reservoir from the east and west forks of Ashland Creek has fallen off by 60 percent in less than a month, Ashland Public Works Director Mike Faught said in a memo.

The reservoir that stores the community's water was at 59 percent capacity on Sunday.

The minimum desirable level that the reservoir should reach is 35 percent capacity, he said.

The reservoir is being drawn down by about 1 percent each day, Bennett said.

At the current draw down rate, the reservoir would be at 35 percent capacity on Sept. 23, Faught said in the memo.

He said city staff have tested pumps and a piping system in case the city needs to use Talent Irrigation Water to supplement city supplies. City staff are awaiting the results of lab tests to see if the TID water can meet standards for source water.

If the TID water doesn't meet the standards, the city will have to install a portable treatment plant to pre-treat water before pumping the water to the water treatment plant.

That will ensure that the TID water is safe to drink and should also help with taste and odor issues. The city could know by Wednesday whether the TID water needs to be pre-treated, Faught said.

If needed, the city could go to stage two, stage three or stage four of mandatory water curtailment. Under stage four, a household would only be allowed to use 224.4 gallons per day. The cost for any water used above that amount would be 10 times the usual rate.

The city has only gone to stage one of mandatory water curtailment since an ordinance allowing the stages was adopted in 2001. The stage one curtailment occurred in 2001, Bennett said.

"Normally when Ashlanders are asked to conserve, they do," she said.

The City Council will have a special meeting at 5 p.m. on Tuesday to approve or deny Bennett's declaration of the first stage of mandatory water curtailment. The meeting will be in the Ashland Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main St.

"Our goal is to use water wisely so there is enough drinking water until the autumn rains begin," Bennett said. "Typically the first rain is sometime in October."

Bennett said the city not only needs to conserve water for residents, but to make sure the city has enough water to fight any fires. The fire danger level is at extreme.

Over the next two days, Community Emergency Response Team volunteers will distribute door hangers notifying residents of the mandatory water curtailment. Letters have been mailed to water utility customers whose water use has been in excess of amounts allowed under the Water Curtailment Ordinance, city officials said.

Meanwhile, the city is awaiting the results of a comprehensive water study that looks at a variety of sources and uses for potable water and irrigation water.

The city has done partial work to prepare to connect to the Talent-Ashland-Phoenix waterline that would bring supplemental water from Medford to Ashland.

The soonest that could be completed is 2013, Bennett said.

Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.