Today, municipalities nationwide are participating in the “Imagine a Day Without Water” national day of action to raise awareness about the importance of investing in the infrastructure.
Residents living in the following cities need no reminders to imagine a day without water: Flint, Michigan; Jackson, Mississippi; New York, New York; Baltimore, Maryland
The water crisis in Flint began in 2014 and lasted several years. In 2022, residents of Jackson experienced a week without reliable water service, and numerous interruptions thereafter; thousands of New York City residents were without water after dangerous levels of arsenic were found in a housing complex; E. coli was found in the water supply in Baltimore, leaving some residents without safe water for nearly a week.
The Grants Pass City Council and Public Works staff have been working for several years to ensure we don’t join the cities listed above.
In 2019, the city implemented an annual 5.28% increase to water customers along with a monthly $13.50 Water Treatment Plant surcharge to raise funds to help relocate the current water treatment facility. That money alone will not fund the cost of the replacement water treatment plant, and staff have been pursuing additional funding sources.
The City has been awarded grants and is awaiting confirmation of $50 million in BRIC (Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities) funding through FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency). With this additional funding, we do not anticipate further rate increases to fund the replacement water treatment plant.
The design of the replacement water treatment plant is approximately 30% complete; construction of the replacement plant is scheduled for early 2025.
Some specific secondary and tertiary impacts beyond reducing future flood and earthquake risks include
- Smart technology that provides positive barriers to potential pathogens for the production of clean and safe water.
- Ensuring the economic and social viability of the community by continuing to provide safe and clean drinking water.
- Permeable concrete and asphalt incorporated in the project design will reduce stormwater runoff issues, and also improve groundwater recharge in the area.
Our water supply has flowed through the valley uninterrupted for thousands of years, and we’ve been tapping into it since 1888. And as our population increases, so does the demand for reliable water.
According to the Washington Post: “Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Nebraska, California and Idaho are using more water than they receive each year, depleting groundwater reserves to support farming and industrial use.”
While we do not rely on groundwater reserves to supply our needs, we cannot take for granted the importance of water and investing in its future; these photos show the current state of our deteriorating water treatment plant, which is on borrowed time.
The Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for the flow rate of the Rogue River, which they control via the dam at Lost Creek Lake. In February 2022, the Corps said the water level in the lake was 35 feet below normal. They were concerned that they would not have enough water to balance all of the downstream needs. Then, in May 2022, abundant rainfall brought the lake to 99% of capacity, averting the need to ration water.
But what if the lake level drops so low someday that the Army Corps needs to ration the flow? What steps would you take to reduce the demand? What would be the greatest impact on you if water needed to be allocated? What would you be willing to sacrifice to ensure everyone in our community has water?
Depending on the time of year and customer demand, the Water Treatment Plant presently produces between 1.88 to 13.38 million gallons per day. In 2022, the City distributed 2.0609 billion gallons of water, enough to fill two six-foot-deep swimming pools the size of a football field.
While the replacement water treatment plant will be able to produce 22.5 million gallons of water each day, learning to develop habits of conservation now will help us move forward when a time with less water may be a reality.
We’re fortunate to have a reliable water source in the Rogue River and a City Council that recognizes the need for investing in a replacement water treatment plant. Still, it’s important to understand why the investment in infrastructure matters, and why we want to simply imagine a day without water, rather than be forced to live without it, like those living in the cities listed above.
Follow this link to learn more about the value of water.