Drought Potential in Ashland

Ashland Prepares for Drought
In anticipation of drought conditions and the likelihood of water curtailment, the City of Ashland is taking action now that will reduce water use over the next several months. “The City, including the Parks Department, will not plant trees, shrubs or annuals beginning now through the summer season,” said City Administrator Dave Kanner.
“Other than a few shrubs and trees that have been “heeled in” and must be planted, we are committed to postponing all planting until we are past the anticipated drought,” said Don Robertson, director of parks and recreation.  “Due to shallow roots, annuals and even vegetable gardens use as much water as grass.”
In addition, the City and Parks Department will delay the start of irrigation on city-owned property as long as possible.  This helps to train lawns, shrubs and trees to need less water.  Once the irrigation system is turned on, watering will be much less frequent than in non-drought years.
Ashland’s municipal code gives the City the ability to require water use curtailment of residents and businesses if water supplies get too low.  Ashland last experienced water curtailment in 2009.  In May of that year, the snowpack measured 41 inches and the city supplemented the water supply with Talent Irrigation District (TID) water in August.  This year the snowpack measured 20 inches in March and the City expects to begin using TID water in May.
The Ashland community uses approximately 1.5 million gallons of water each day for basic indoor domestic use.  Once the community begins irrigating landscaping and continues to irrigate through the hot summer months, the community uses as much as 7 million gallons of water a day. 
The City of Ashland encourages its citizens to start thinking now about how they can conserve water this summer.  For more information on water conservation visit www.ashland.or.us/conserve and for more information on water-wise planting visit www.ashlandsaveswater.org/
Questions and Answers

Potential Drought in Ashland
1) Is Ashland prepared for a potential drought in the summer of 2014? 

Yes.  The City of Ashland is well aware of the potential for drought in the upcoming months and has an action plan in place.  That plan, which requires everyone’s cooperation to conserve water, has been tried and tested in the past.  But we will only implement it if and when it’s necessary.  We’re still a couple of months away from knowing whether it’s necessary.

2) Where does our water come from and where is it stored? 

Ashland’s primary source of water is Ashland Creek in the watershed high above Ashland.  Water flows down the east and west forks of the creek to Reeder Reservoir, which lies between Mt. Ashland and the City.
Ashland’s secondary source of water comes from the Klamath Basin.Water is stored in Howard Prairie Lake and Hyatt Lake and is available during the growing season only via the Talent Irrigation District (TID) canal.  Ashland uses TID water to supplement the water supply when water levels are low in Reeder and to meet high summer water demand.
3) Why doesn’t the City start curtailing water use now and store more water in Reeder Reservoir to save for later?

The City could store and save the water from the east and west forks of Ashland Creek now in Reeder Reservoir.  However, there is currently twice as much water coming into the reservoir as is going out and that will use up all of our storage capacity even without curtailment measures. With this amount of water entering, we will get to the end of April with a completely full reservoir.  If we experience heavy rain in April and the reservoir is full with the water we’ve been storing for later use, there is a risk of flooding.  Too much water in the reservoir and heavy rain means water flowing over the dam into Ashland Creek.  Additional water in Ashland Creek coupled with heavy rain could cause flooding downstream.  Curtailment may be necessary if this dry weather continues, but it’s not necessary right now.

4) What if we don’t have a sufficient snow pack this spring?  Will Ashland have enough water in Reeder Reservoir?  Will there be enough TID water to supplement the shortfall? 

Even without additional snow, we will have a full reservoir by the end of April.  But without additional snow pack, a full reservoir won’t get us through the summer.  If it is determined that there could be a shortfall of available water, the City will implement the action plan for drought, as outlined in our municipal code (AMC 14.06 Water Curtailment). This begins with voluntary water curtailment, which includes outdoor irrigation, washing motor vehicles, and more.  Then, if necessary, the City will implement mandatory water curtailment.  During mandatory water curtailment, water consumption beyond a prescribed allocation is charged at a significantly higher rate.

5) When was the last time water curtailment was implemented? 

The City of Ashland implemented voluntary water curtailment in August of 2009 and shortly thereafter implemented mandatory water curtailment.  The Ashland community very quickly reduced water use as requested, extending Ashland’s limited water supply through late October 2009 when the winter rain began.

6) What else could the City do to get more water? 

Extending the TAP (Talent Ashland Phoenix) water line from Talent is scheduled for the summer of 2015.  TAP would bring water to Ashland from Lost Creek Reservoir via Medford, Phoenix and Talent.  Piping the TID canal between Starlight and Terrace Streets is scheduled for 2018.
Both actions, included in the Water Master Plan approved by the City Council in 2012, will provide additional water during drought conditions.

7) What can individual households and businesses do to conserve water during peak summer demand? 

The City of Ashland has a number of Water Conservation Programs ranging from indoor water analysis, irrigation evaluations, rebates on appliances, guides for water wise landscaping, low flow shower heads and more.  Many of these programs can be implemented now and will save on water use. These programs can reduce both short term and long term water use.  More information on programs, rebates and general water saving tips can be found at www.ashland.or.us/conserve

8) How will the City KNOW when a drought is likely? 
When the May 1st snow pack is less than 60% of normal, when Reeder Reservoir is no longer overtopping and the community’s water use continues to increase, the City will implement the drought action plan which includes:
  • The use of TID water
  • Prohibiting water waste
  • Voluntary water curtailment
  • Mandatory water curtailment
For more information about water call 541-488-5587

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