2014 Drought Summit Q&A

City of Ashland – Drought Summit
August 12, 2014
On August 12th the City of Ashland invited anyone interested to attend a ‘Drought Summit’ at which our current water situation was discussed.  There were three presentations about the current water situation, including the current situation in Ashland, what’s going on in the rest of the State and tips on what can be done to conserve water.  There were also a number of representatives from various entities on hand to answer questions.  Audience members were asked to write down their questions and turn them in to be answered.  There was not enough time to answer all the questions at the Drought Summit, so we have compiled all the questions and answers and they are listed below.  The questions appear unedited, exactly as asked and the answers have come from various sources.  A few of the question have not yet been answered because the most appropriate people to answer them have not been available. As soon as we can get them answered, we’ll update this document.
If you have further questions, or would like more detail on any of these questions, please email us at morrism@ashland.or.us.
  • Focus here in domestic use- But isn’t that only 3% of all fresh water use?  What about agriculture, especially factory farming?  What about manufacturing?  Military? Swimming pools and spas?  Should there be a distinction between household use for lawns and ornamentals vs. growing food?
    • Ashland’s domestic use is about 1.8 to 2 million gallons per day.  Domestic use is water used indoors for health and sanitation purposes.  Our domestic use is figured based on winter time use when outdoor watering does not typically occur.  This summer our total water use has averaged about 4.5 million gallons per day which means our actual domestic use is about 40% of our total water use.
    • Within the City of Ashland, there is not a considerable amount of manufacturing that uses a large volume of water, however businesses that use water for manufacturing are well aware of the current water situation and several have been in close contact with the City to see how the drought could affect them and what they can do to be responsive.
    • Military use within the City is relatively small. 
    • Swimming pools and spas after they’ve been filled use approximately the same amount of water as lawn of the same size, due to evaporation. 
    • After the water is delivered to a water customer, how the water is used is up to that individual.  It would be extremely difficult for the City to track how people use water after they receive it.  At this time the City does not have the resources necessary to monitor individual water use.
  • Why isn’t Reeder Reservoir enlarged and/or build a larger reservoir?
    • The Ashland Water Advisory Committee reviewed options as part of the master planning process, including enlarging the existing reservoir or building an additional reservoir.  These options would cost between $30 million and $100 million.  While this may be an option in the future, it was decided at this time there are still other more cost effective ways to meet our water needs.  For more information on the water master plan, please go to this website: http://ashland.or.us/SIB/files/2012%20CWMP-Carollo(1).pdf
  • Can we make Emigrant Lake more efficient?
    • Ashland does not use water from Emigrant Lake.  The TID water used in Ashland comes from Howard Prairie and Hyatt Lake. 
  • Can all the leaks in the TID be fixed?
    • The City is planning to pipe the portion of the TID ditch that comes through town.  This will reduce leaks and improve water quality. This project is expected to occur over the next two years. The WISE project is also charged with improving irrigation canals and water quality. For more information visit: http://wiseproject.org/faq.html
  • It seems like we did a good job of dealing with the symptoms of drought.  However no mention were made of dealing with the underlying problem- Global Warming!  It seems like if we don’t address the problem, the symptoms will only grow worse.
    • The City has performed energy audits on most of its facilities and is incorporating changes that create a positive effect with respect to resource conservation. We control what we’re able to.  Global Warming, or climate change, is a problem much greater than Ashland can singlehandedly fix.  As the effects of climate change continue, we will continue to do our part to minimize our impact on climate change and also manage the symptoms as best we can.
  • This year Ashland is conserving a lot of water.  What percentage of that conserved water is from the City? - i.e. less water at parks, school grounds, median strips, etc.
    • Ashland residents have done a great job conserving water this year.  Conservative estimates put the reduction in water use at around 1.5 million gallons per day or more.  While the exact reduction attributable to the City and Parks is difficult to calculate, the savings is perhaps 5% or less of the total, or about 75,000 gallons per day.  The School District manages its own water system and is separate from the City.  We do not have their usage numbers available to us at this time.
  • I asked my hairdresser what their business was doing for the drought.  She said they’re doing nothing, and that the landlord hasn’t said anything to conserve water.  What is being done to encourage businesses to conserve?
    • Many businesses are doing their part to reduce their water use, without anyone asking them to do so.  The City has, since the earliest signs that we could be facing a drought, provided water customers with information on how they could reduce their water use.  For many years, the City has also had a conservation program specifically designed to help water customers use their water as efficiently as possible.  The City has also done community outreach in many ways, including inviting anyone interested to attend a ‘Drought Summit’ at SOU.
  • Cloud seeding for snow like at the airport greatly is this affecting our weather?
    • Cloud seeding is used as the Medford International Airport as a form of fog suppression. It is not used in our area for weather modification purposes.  As far as we know, cloud seeding is not a cost effective option to increase our snowpack.  Additionally, we are not aware of cloud seeding being done that would in any way impact us.
  • Can I trade daily water use on-line?
    • No.  The City does not offer any programs like this.
  • When will we get a total dying of big trees in town?
    • Water can still be applied in sufficient quantity to keep trees alive.  While they may not thrive like they would in a non drought year, they should at least be receiving enough water to survive.  Parks started off the season by training plants/trees how to survive this season by using less water as stated by Julie Smitherman in the drought summit. 
  • Why invest in tying into Medford water, rather than in retrofitting the Ashland+TID system to make conservation of our local supply efficient?
    • Many things have been done over the years to increase the efficiency of the Ashland and TID systems.  The difficult part this year is not the system itself, rather it’s the amount of water contained in the system.  No matter how efficient of a system we have, if there’s not sufficient water to supply the system, the system will be ineffective.  Connecting into another water system allows us, in an emergency, to pull water from a much larger watershed.  Connecting to the Medford system is not merely a short-term response to drought.  It protects us should we lose our treatment plant to fire, flood or earthquake, or if the water supply becomes unusable due to a toxic algae bloom.
  • What is our business community doing as part of drought mitigation?
    • The business community has been extremely responsive to drought concerns and has been doing its share to reduce water use.  We have been working one-on-one with our largest water customers to help them reduce their water use and have received excellent cooperation.  The Chamber of Commerce has also been extremely supportive and was responsible for putting on the drought summit.
  • What percentage of rain water hits impermeable surfaces (roofs, asphalt parking lots, streets, sidewalks) and goes directly to sewers and what percentage hits ground or earth and sinks in?
    • Presenters at the Drought Summit at SOU said typically the amount of run off within an urban environment is figured to be 50% to 80% more than if the city were not there.  Within the City of Ashland, the runoff actually goes into our storm drain system and then into the various creeks in town, it does not go into the sewer system.
  • When curtailment is implemented how long does it take to be effective?
    • In terms of making changes to our utility billing system, curtailment can be implemented (literally) overnight.  But if or when the City imposes mandatory curtailment measures, we need to give proper notice to our water customers.  That means printing and distributing door hangers to let everyone know curtailment is going into effect.  That could take up to a week.  Once in place, curtailment must remain in effect through a complete billing cycle (one month).
  • When you see wasted water per irrigation, what’s the best tact to take?  How do we actively reduce/ prevent/ speakup?
    • How someone uses their water is really up to them.  Unless we are in curtailment, there is no law restricting the use of water. 
  • Why is SOU’s TID irrigation made to run 24 – 7 so as not to stress the City drinking water intake, instead of conserving irrigation water and replacing the City’s valve?
    • At the Drought Summit, SOU explained that their water is all taken out of one point of the TID system.  That system is only capable of supplying a certain amount of water and with over 500 watering zones and over 10,000 sprinklers, water must be pulled from the TID system nearly all day.  Running too many sprinkler zones at one time would pull more water than the system is capable of supplying.
  • Why is SOU so green with drought and all?
    • SOU uses Talent Irrigation District water for its landscaping, so their water use does not impact City water supply.  They have nonetheless taken steps to reduce their water use (both TID and City water) and we very much appreciate their cooperation and support.
  • How do the above average temperatures affect reservoir depletion to evaporation?
    • The reservoir does lose water content to evaporation as does any open surface water reservoir. The exact effects of evaporation have not been calculated.  There is not much that can be done to prevent it, so taking the time to study it has not been worth the effort.
  • Isn’t this rain helping the drought?
    • Yes.  Any rain we get helps to refill the reservoir.
  • If someone can afford to pay the water penalty to have a green lawn is there a further penalty?
    • Until we are in the most restrictive stages of curtailment, no, there is no further penalty and they could just pay the additional costs.  If we ever do get to the most restrictive level of curtailment, level four, then outdoor watering is considered wasteful.  Watering then becomes a code violation and someone could be fined if they’re found to be wasting water.
  • Still watering Oak Knoll Golf Course?
    • The Golf Course is watered with TID water.  At this time, watering the golf course has no impact on Ashland’s water supply.
  • Still building new homes?
    • Despite the current water shortage, it would be difficult, if not impossible, for the City to make a case that a moratorium is justified under state law.  In order to declare a moratorium, the City would have to prove that infrastructure does not exist to serve new development.  That simply isn’t the case.  What’s more, if we did declare a moratorium, state law would allow us just two years to solve the infrastructure deficiency that led to the moratorium.   
  • Can a distinction be made between using water to grow food as to water lawns and ornamental in terms of charges $ and curtailment?
    • The system in place right now is designed to deliver water to individual water users.  Once the water is reaches those water users, how it is used is up to them.  The City does not have the resources to monitor how every water user in town uses the water they receive. 
  • For the City- Switch to billing and all discussion about water to gallons.  The public does not understand cubic feet and if they don’t get the number they don’t get the usage.
    • Using cubic feet is the industry standard and therefore water meters and billing software is set up accordingly.  Converting from cubic feet to gallons is very easy though, just multiply the cubic feet by 7.48 and that will give you the gallons.  So for example, if you used 1,000 cubic feet of water, that is equal to 7,480 gallons.
  • Will water rates increase due to people using less water this year?
    • The City is currently working on a rate study to ensure water charges meet the requirements to maintain the system.  While it is likely rates will go up in the future, the reduced water use this year will not be the reason.
  • What if drought continues, i.e. No October rain, no winter snow?
    • The water available to us would be very limited and the situation would be very difficult.  Curtailment and the emergency use of the TAP system would be our only options.
  • At what point do we expand TAP to 3 million gallons/ day?
    • Expanding the system to 3 million gallons per day requires upgrading the system in Medford.  While it is possible, the cost to do so in the short term is prohibitive.  When it looks like the current plan of 2.13 million gallons per day will not be enough in future years, at that time we will look to expand the system.
  • So much water is left in glasses on tables in restaurants from customers who did not request it.  Are restaurants required to ask the customer first before serving it?
    • There is no requirement for restaurants to only supply water to customers that ask for it; however restaurants have been encouraged to do so and have even been provided with informational sheets that can be given to customers to explain why.  It is up to the individual restaurant to decide how they choose to serve water.
  • Are there plans to expand water catchment areas (new reservoirs).  More catchment basins large and small?
    • At this time, no, there are no plans to add catchment systems.  Doing so would be very expensive and the water collected would then have to be pumped to the water plant if we were to use it.  Pumping costs and the required infrastructure make this a very expensive option.

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