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Concrete structures are water reservoirs

On a recent walk in east central Medford, I came upon a very large old concrete structure that appears to be a water reservoir. To the north of it is a newer structure, not concrete, that is probably also a water reservoir. Does the city own these? How are they used? When were they built?

— Jan R.

Who would have figured that a question like this — it’s a giant concrete structure, after all — would be so hard to answer? But after three phone calls and no less than five email exchanges over the course of three weeks, SYA has cemented the case.

Yvette Finstad, an executive administrative coordinator for the Medford Water Commission, came through for us, supplying the answer and a bonus history lesson, too.

According to Finstad, the Medford Water Commission maintains three water storage facilities at Capital Hill, adjacent to Capital Avenue between Valley View Drive and Girard Drive. The first of the Capital Hill reservoirs was constructed in 1909 to store two million gallons of water from Little Butte Creek (it was transported to town via a banded wood stave pipeline).

Eventually, more storage was necessary, so right around 1930 the second reservoir, which also holds two million gallons, was built.

To the south of these reservoirs is yet another — let’s call it reservoir number three — which was constructed in 1946 and holds eight million gallons of water.

“These facilities,” Finstad said via email, “supply gravity-fed water from our primary drinking water source, Big Butte Springs, to a majority of the customers in the greater Medford area, and are part of a larger system that delivers high-quality drinking water to around 140,000 residents of the Rogue Valley.”

Finstad explained that, periodic repairs aside, the rebuilding of the city’s water storage facility is part of a 10-year capital improvement plan, “to improve the resiliency of our system and replace aging infrastructure.”

Finstad said the commission is in the process of figuring out how to cover the cost of the project.

“We have recently been selected by the (Environmental Protection Agency) to apply for federal funding,” she said, “as part of a larger financial strategy to fund long-term projects such as this.”

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.