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Water rates headed uphill — for good reasons

Medford Water Commission customers are in for a series of rate increases over the next several years as the Rogue Valley’s primary water utility adjusts to rising demand and ebbing supply along with the ever-present threat of a major earthquake. The planned improvements to the system are necessary and prudent.


The rate increases are spread over 17 years, making them less of a shock for water customers. In addition to the higher rates, the commission will use cash reserves, and sell revenue bonds that will be repaid with the increased rates.

At the top of the list of improvements is expanding the Duff Water Treatment Plant from its present capacity of 45 million gallons a day to 65 million. The plant on the river supplements water from Big Butte Springs, the original water source for Medford, in the summer months.

This year, with the region gripped by a historic drought, the commission began tapping the Rogue River on April 1, the earliest date on record.

Other improvements include new piping, rebuilding the Capitol Hill reservoir to better withstand an earthquake and the likely addition of new reservoirs. The commission also plans a new earthquake-resistant headquarters building and a new system to regulate the pH level of the water to prevent leaching from metal pipes in older homes.

Created a century ago, the Medford Water Commission has expanded its service over the years and now supplies drinking water to Eagle Point, White City, Central Point, Jacksonville, Phoenix, Talent and, when needed, to Ashland in addition to Medford.

This area has been fortunate to enjoy clean, abundant spring water for many years, thanks to the foresight of civic leaders and the willingness of residents 100 years ago to pay for 30 miles of pipes to carry water down from Big Butte Springs at the base of Mount McLoughlin. Now the commission is looking toward the future, planning for a growing population and expanding the system’s capacity to meet the increasing demand.

Water customers are appropriately on the hook for the cost of these reasonable investments to ensure a steady supply of drinking water in the years to come. Increased costs are never popular, but the rate increases are spread over enough years to make them affordable.