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Medford Water Commission asks customers to use less water

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Owing to a shortage of the chemical used to disinfect water, the Medford Water Commission is asking customers to reduce water waste, and to expect water that looks slightly cloudier out of the tap — but is no less safe to drink.

The water commission issued a request for voluntary water usage reductions for its customers in Medford and portions of Central Point, Eagle Point, Phoenix, Talent, Jacksonville and White City on Thursday after state officials announced chlorine shortage from a major supplier that’s impacting municipal water treatments across the West Coast, according to Medford Water Commission and Oregon Office of Emergency Management releases Thursday.

“The water we supply remains safe to drink, and to ensure we can continue to adequately treat water and protect public health during this time, we ask for the cooperation of customers in voluntarily reducing their water usage,” the release states. “These actions will help us extend our existing supply of sodium hypochlorite and preserve water for domestic use.”

The water commission treats water from its two sources — Big Butte Springs and from the Rogue River — with sodium hypochlorite to ensure the water meets Oregon Health Authority drinking water standards.

Westlake Chemical based in Longview, Washington, which supplies chlorine to water and sewer utilities in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Northern California, recently suffered a “major electrical failure,” according to the state.

Compounding the issue, according to the water commission, was a late 2020 fire at a major chemical plant in Louisiana “that decimated their chlorine manufacturing capabilities,” along with heightened chlorine demand during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The water commission maintains a limited supply of the chemical, and “will be working strategically to extend this supply,” according to the water commission.

“Part of these operational changes will result in an excess of air in the pipelines, causing the water to appear cloudy,” the water commission states. “The cloudiness will dissipate over time and is due to air bubbles, not poor water quality.”

To conserve water, the commission asks customers to stop leaks, take shorter showers, turn off the water when brushing teeth or shaving.

Outdoors, the water commission asks users to avoid washing cars, minimize refilling pools, keep pools covered and watering every other day.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.