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Some lose irrigation to safeguard water supply

The Ashland City Council decided this week that preserving the city's water supply takes precedence over the irrigation needs of some Ashland residents.

In order to augment the city water supply using Talent Irrigation District water, city officials Tuesday ordered the shutoff of irrigation to 86 customers in Ashland. A half-dozen residents spoke in opposition to shutting off the irrigation water, urging the council to instead select a supply option that would keep water flowing in the TID ditch to the north end of Ashland.

The city has three potential sources of water: water captured in the watershed and stored in the city's Reeder Reservoir, TID water and the newly constructed Talent-Ashland-Phoenix (TAP) line, which pipes water from Medford to Ashland. City officials say they are attempting to keep Reeder Reservoir close to full as long as possible in case of a disruption to other water supply options.

Keeping the reservoir full provides the city with a 45-day emergency water supply while reducing the risk of toxic algae blooms that can result from warmer water temperatures in shallow, sun-warmed water.

City staff provided the council with three options for procuring water should supply at Reeder Reservoir run low this summer. The council ultimately elected to use TID water as the preferred option for supplementing the city water supply. They agreed to reserve TAP water in case of a shortage of TID water, which is fed by Howard Prairie and Hyatt Lake, both of which are only about one-third full. TID water is also cheaper than TAP water.

In addition to the cost, several councilors were concerned after city staff advised them that in order to keep TID water flowing to the 86 customers, nearly a half-million gallons of water each day would be dumped into Wrights Creek at the northern terminus of the Ashland TID ditch.

Mayor John Stromberg also noted that under city Ordinance 2188, all TID service in the city is interruptible. He also said that although it may seem unfair to curtail water for the 86 customers, some of whom have received TID water for more than 40 years, it would be less fair to ask the entire community to subsidize irrigation water for a few people during a drought.

The city can draw up to 2 million gallons per day from the TID system, and up to 250 million gallons annually. After that, the city would have to rely on the TAP line.

The council voted 4-2 to use TID water as the first option for the city, with councilors Carol Voisin and Greg Lemhouse dissenting.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the council unanimously approved a resolution supporting the expansion of the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument.

Freelance reporter Alec Dickinson lives in Ashland. Reach him at alecalaska@gmail.com.