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Water needs are no reason to worry

With all the new residential and commercial construction happening in the Medford area, what is the forecast for our water supply? I realize that Big Butte Springs supplies most of the valley’s needs in the winter and the Rogue augments it in the summer, but my question is whether it is a fine resource and whether we have enough to support the future growth of the valley?

— Chuck G., Medford.

Inquiring minds always want to know if there is enough water — especially the kind you drink and shower with — to go around.

The short answer is there is more than enough to meet anticipated demand. The issue that keeps folks at the Medford Water Commission, and their counterparts in charge of supplying water to their local communities, is keeping delivery systems up to date. Just last year, consulting firm CH2M put together a 116-page Water Management and Conservation Plan for the Medford Water Commission, which directly serves Medford and unincorporated White City. It also wholesales water to Central Point, Eagle Point, Jacksonville, Phoenix, and Talent, while supplementing Ashland’s supply when needed.

“We do have a finite amount of water rights, but those happen to be quite a bit more than the water we need today — and what we think we’ll need in the future,” said Ben Klayman, who oversees water quality and treatment for the commission.

As you noted Chuck, Big Butte Springs — 5 miles east of Butte Falls — is Medford’s principal water source. The springs’ capacity varies from approximately 25 to 35 million gallons per day depending on rainfall, snow pack, and groundwater conditions, but the transmission pipeline capacity limits withdrawal to a maximum 26.4 million gallons daily.

When lawn and gardening water kicks in, the region consumes up to 65 million gallons a day. That’s when the commission turns to the Rogue River for additional water. From April through October, Rogue River water is treated at the Robert A. Duff Water Treatment Plant, providing an additional 45 million gallons daily. An expansion project will boost that figure to 65 million gallons a day in 2022.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501 or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.