Frequently asked questions about EWEB's water reliability
What is EWEB's Water Reliability Initiative?
For nearly 100 years, the Eugene Water & Electric Board has reliably served the community
with water drawn from the mountain-fed McKenzie River. In summer months, however,
there is only a one- or two-day supply of water if something happens to disrupt our
water source or EWEB's treatment plant. Eugene is the largest city in the Pacific Northwest
that only has a single source of drinking water supply. To address this concern, EWEB has
undertaken a Water Reliability Initiative that includes developing additional water sources.
What are the risks to Eugene's water supply?
EWEB has identified several scenarios that could result in a water supply shortage:
- Seismic events
- Forest fire
- Severe floods
- Chemical spill into the McKenzie River
- Facility failure (such as failure of a major pipeline, pump station or reservoir;
low or no chlorine from the water treatment plant; pump break-down or contamination)
The frequency and severity of these incidents varies, but all must be taken into account
to assure reliability.
Where does Eugene get drinking water today? What options have been considered for alternate sources of drinking water?
Today, all of Eugene's drinking water comes from the McKenzie River. After years of study,
the viable options to diversify the community's water sources for the future include
interties with other water suppliers, groundwater wells and the Willamette River.
Does EWEB have the capability to provide customers with water from alternate sources?
EWEB has secured water rights on the McKenzie (194 million gallons per day, or mgd) and also
on the main stem of the Willamette River (20 mgd), as well as rights to groundwater sources.
The Willamette water rights would likely be sufficient to serve Eugene customers as an
alternate source for basic needs, but new water treatment facilities will be needed
to deliver Willamette River water to Eugene customers.
EWEB's pipe replacement program protects water quality, improves fire protection,
and reduces water outages and property damage.
What other reliability improvements are planned along with diversifying the water supply?
Over the years, EWEB has made significant investments in reliability improvements. A number of
reliability projects have been completed, are underway or planned:
- Water treatment improvements and increased reservoir capacity at Hayden Bridge filtration plant
- Updating and enhancing the water system's electronic control and data management system
- Providing for an emergency power supply at the Hayden Bridge intake and water filtration plant
- Improvements to the water intake structures and mechanical equipment
- Rehabilitation of pump stations and reservoirs for seismic protection
- Replacement of old/deteriorating water pipelines
Can water conservation help EWEB improve reliability?
Reducing water demand does contribute to reliability, but conservation cannot meet Eugene's
needs for alternate water sources. EWEB's highly effective, award-winning
program has already significantly reduced water consumption for a typical residential customer.
Conserving water optimizes the existing system of pipes, pumps and reservoirs to meet community needs.
When water consumption remains stable due to wise water use, EWEB can postpone costly system expansions so capital investments can be devoted to increasing
resilience of critical water infrastructure.
How will EWEB pay for development of alternate water sources and other reliability improvements?
Investments to improve reliability of the community's drinking water treatment and distribution
system are factored into customers' water rates and charges.
Will EWEB develop alternate water sources in partnership with other area water suppliers?
EWEB places a high value on collaborative solutions and building partnerships. Several other
area water suppliers lack adequate alternate supply sources and have expressed interest in
exploring alternatives that may be more cost-effective and have other mutual benefits.
What is the timeline for developing alternate sources of drinking water?
How will EWEB customers and the public be informed and involved?
Developing alternate sources of drinking water is a high priority for EWEB's elected
Board of Commissioners. Pursuit of water supply options is underway but is anticipated to take a
number of years. EWEB's Strategic Plan and
Capital Improvement Plan call for
alternate sources to be developed over the next two decades.
If it's going to take a number of years, why should people care now?
Although developing alternate sources of drinking water may be years away, work has begun to move
toward that goal. In December 2013, commissioners voted to create a special savings account to help fund
development of alternate water sources and directed staff to put half of the February 2014 water rate increase
(about 94 cents per month) into this dedicated reserve fund.
EWEB's Board of Commissioners is committed to informing and involving customers in investment
decisions to improve water system reliability. Email EWEB's
Water Reliability Team with questions or comments about water reliability.