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Adding tools to water use tool box

The city’s water supply is somewhat lower than officials would like to see this time of year, leading to tapping into the Talent Irrigation District water Sunday to supplement Ashland’s summer water supply, but there are plenty of options available to meet customer needs, the City Council was told in an update at a study session Monday.

“This year we are in a short water supply,” Public Works Director Paula Brown said, adding that, “It is not drastic.”

She said the supplemental water brings in one million gallons a day. She also said that in an emergency situation the city could tap into the Talent/Ashland/Phoenix (TAP) water line.

Julie Smitherman, conservation analyst, joined Brown in front of the council with a description of the work she’s undertaken to maximize water usage efficiency. One of these projects is a campaign to use untreated water for irrigation in the future.

“Grass actually doesn’t like treated water,” Brown said.

They are encouraging citizens to file irrigation evaluations with an incentive of a custom tote bag. Workshops for grey water installations and rainwater catchment have been presented to residents, and contractors and plumbers over the past couple of months.

“We’ve got a huge demand for grey water reuse and rainwater catchment, but not enough education on it,” Smitherman said. “There’s a lot of misconception.”

Grey water is water that’s been lightly used, such as in a washing machine. This water can be diverted to water landscape and gardens instead of flowing into the wastewater system. Smitherman said each home is different, but a simple set-up can be installed for less than $1,000, possibly for less than $500. Reusing water is an important technique to keep in mind, especially during years like this when the snowpack last winter was minimal and water supply is low, councilors were told.

Pioneer Hall plans sought

City staff should send out an invitation for organizations and people to submit suggestions for use of Pioneer Hall without including mention of a purchase option, the council agreed after considerable discussion. With its use as a winter homeless shelter apparently at an end after a report found it would take $325,000 to $405,000 to meet occupancy standards for overnight use, councilors had earlier decided to request such proposals, which has drawn interest from the Parks & Recreation Commission.

New to the council, though, is the information that Pioneer Hall shares a lot with the Community Center, so proposals for use — or sale — of the property would involve both. Since the council doesn’t want to part with the Community Center and splitting the lot appears impractical due to its size and zoning, most councilors don’t want sale to be an option, leaving the possibility of a longterm lease on the table for those wishing to offer suggested uses of the property. Such submissions will be due by Aug. 9.

— Email Ashland freelance writer Caitlin Fowlkes at Caitlin.fowlkes@gmail.com.

Photo courtesy of city of AshlandWater spills over Hosler Dam on Ashland Creek, about 2.8 miles upstream from the Plaza. With less water flowing into Reeder Reservoir than the nearby Water Treatment Plant is consuming, the city has added water from the Talent Irrigation District to its supply mix, keeping the level of the reservoir high.