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Down the mountain and out of your tap

From the source to your tap, it is a long and winding road to get drinking water.

Medford's two primary water sources are Big Butte Springs, 33 miles from the city on the flanks of Mount McLoughlin, and the Rogue River.

Big Butte Springs provides up to 26.4 million gallons a day, which historically has been more than enough for Medford's needs. As a result, the city sells off surplus water to surrounding cities.

The water starts as snowmelt on Mount McLoughlin and percolates through volcanic soils in a watershed covering 56,000 acres.

The springs' flow varies from 25 million gallons per day to 35 million, but the maximum withdrawal from the springs is limited by the capacity of the water lines and water rights to 26.4 million gallons.

Water from the springs requires minimal disinfection before it is sent down the pipeline to Medford.

During summer months, the Robert A. Duff Water Treatment Plant near TouVelle State Park can process up to 45 million gallons a day out of the Rogue. River water is used to supplement the spring water generally beginning after April 1 and ending in late September or early October.

The water commission has rights to extract up to 65 million gallons a day from the Rogue River.

Between the springs and river, the maximum production could total 71.4 million gallons during summer months.

About three years ago the peak hit a record 60 million gallons a day. Normally, the peak is about 45 million gallons in the summer.

The treatment plant is shut down during the winter months when demand drops, but within 10 years the plant could be running year-round to keep up with projected growth in the valley.

By 2030, peak demand could exceed the 71.4 million gallons.

To meet the increased demand, the water commission hopes to build a new treatment plant that initially could add another 20 million gallons of production.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or e-mail dmann@mailtribune.com.