Ashland may expedite planning and construction of a water pipeline that will connect to Medford's water supply in light of this winter's drought.
Construction on the Talent-Ashland-Phoenix, or TAP, water line was planned for 2015, but the line could be installed by late summer or early fall, said Ashland Public Works Director Mike Faught.
The line stretches to Talent and already provides that neighboring town with water.
The Ashland City Council will be asked to approve the faster timeline in March, Faught said.
Ashland's Water Master Plan calls for the construction of the TAP line to provide emergency water for Ashland.
TAP water would supplement water that comes from the Ashland Watershed and is stored in Reeder Reservoir in the hills above town.
During low water years, Ashland also treats Talent Irrigation District water for use as potable water.
Faught said city staff members are keeping a close eye on the snowpack in the watershed and the amount of water flowing into Reeder Reservoir.
The reservoir is storing enough water now, with more flowing in than is being used by the community, he said.
But without enough snowpack, water supplies will run low during the summer.
"There's very little snowpack now," Faught said.
In the summer, Ashland could ask residents to voluntarily conserve water.
If water levels become too low, the city could institute mandatory water-curtailment measures. Residents and businesses that use water beyond certain thresholds are charged significantly higher rates on the excess water used.
Ashland last instituted voluntary and then mandatory water curtailment measures in 2009.
The community responded to the measures and the city's limited water supply was stretched into October 2009, when winter rain began, city officials said.
City of Ashland Conservation Analyst Julie Smitherman said residents don't have to wait until summer to start conserving water.
She recommended avoiding watering lawns and landscaping too early in the spring. Early watering can make vegetation overly reliant on irrigation and less drought-resistant.
The city's Conservation Division can perform evaluations to check for leaks and inefficiencies in water customers' irrigation systems. The division will provide customized watering schedules and also gives out meters to test soil moisture, Smitherman said.
For more information on water conservation programs, rebates and tips, visit www.ashland.or.us/conserve.