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Local editorial

Make Medford's water hard to get

A deal with Westwood shouldn't encourage others to want in, too

Diplomacy works. Witness Medford Mayor Gary Wheeler's recent offer to meet with rural residents who want a link to the city's water supply. The deal interrupted a legislative effort that would have forced the issue ' and not to the city's benefit.

But the hard work still lies ahead for Wheeler and members of the Medford Water Commission. Now that they've agreed to meet with neighbors in the Westwood subdivision between Medford and Central Point, they'll have to decide the larger issue of whether to agree to the water link.

Water commission leaders think such a move would set a bad precedent, and that's our concern as well. Medford's water source is not the endless supply it once looked to be. In fact, the region will be tight on water within a decade even if the commission turns away Westwood and everyone else who wants to get in on our deal.

Westwood, though, unlike some others who seek a water link, is working hard to make a case for itself.

The neighbors in the 70-plus homes built in the 1950s face real issues because of a falling water table affects supply in parts of a well system that looked adequate when the homes were built.

They aren't asking for a free deal or even city water. They are trying to buy their own water rights from the Rogue River and hope to tap in to a private water line that serves the nearby Naval Reserve Center. They would ask the commission only to treat and deliver the water.

— Good deal now? We're still not convinced.

Too many others are knocking at the Medford commission's door, and the commission's first priority has to be to do what it can to protect the supply of the 115,000 customers it already has.

If Medford does decide to help the Westwood neighbors, the deal shouldn't be a sweet one, much as the neighbors need water.

Westwood should pay a steep fee to get into Medford's supply, and the commission should take pains to make sure it doesn't lose on the deal. Whatever the decision, it should discourage others from looking for something similar.

Meanwhile, there's a message in the Westwood situation not only for residents there but for all of us: Water doesn't pour endlessly from the hose, no matter how green we think our lawns should be.

We have the water we have ' no more.