Local agencies, led by the city of Ashland, have banded together to host a free "drought summit" Tuesday intended to increase public awareness of the drought situation, engage residents in water conservation efforts and let them know what is being doing in response to the drought.
The Ashland Public Works Department has congratulated residents on their conservative use of water this summer, but warn that drought conditions are still in effect and two months remain in the dry season.
"We're entering into the hottest months with August and September," Public Works Director Mike Faught said. To help ensure that available water lasts through the summer, the drought summit will feature booths, presentations by panelists and a question-and-answer session intended to encourage efficient water use.
"Its a good opportunity for the community to get their questions answered and find out about our conservation programs," says Julie Smitherman, the city's water conservation specialist.
The city will host booths focusing on supply and distribution as well as conservation programs. Other booths will be staffed by representatives of the Talent Irrigation District (TID), Ashland Fire & Rescue, the Community Emergency Response Team, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Soil and Water Conservation District, Rogue Valley Council of Governments, the Chamber of Commerce, Katalyst Inc., SOU, and the Department of Environmental Quality.
Ashland’s primary source of water, according to the city's website, 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.
Reeder Reservoir remains near its full capacity. Recent rains had increased the flow into the reservoir to about 3.13 million gallons per day, but current flows into the reservoir have fallen to an average of 2.9 million gallons per day. Ashland's average use this summer has been 4.5 million gallons per day.
The city has made up the shortfall between what's flowing into Reeder Reservoir and what it's delivering to customers with 2.14 million gallons per day of TID water. Water use during the summer historically rose to 7 million gallons per day due to high levels of irrigation, but has recently held to about 4.5 million gallons per day, a reduction of about 35 percent.
"We want to make sure that the reservoir stays full as long as possible to last us through the summer," Faught said.
TID plans to shut off their system in mid-September, removing that as an option to supplement Ashland's supply. However, the Talent-Ashland-Phoenix water project is on schedule to begin pumping in early September, which would provide the city with up to 2.13 million gallons per day. While it can supplement water use during the summer, TAP water will always meet the city's winter need.
During the panel presentation that begins at 7 p.m., watermaster Travis Kelly will discuss water supplies in the district. Dave Kanner, city administrator, will discuss the local water supply. Kanner will focus on the current state of Ashland's water supply and what residents need to do to ensure water lasts through the dry summer. Smitherman will conclude the presentations by discussing the water conservation programs offered by the city, such as indoor and outdoor water use evaluations, rebate programs and more. These programs are intended to help residents fine-tune their water use.
Booths open at 6:30 p.m. in the Stevenson Union Rogue River Room on the SOU Campus, 1250 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland. All of SOU's parking lots will be open for use during the event.
The city posts up-to-date drought information, water production rates and water curtailment information on its website at ashland.or.us, or call the drought hotline at 541-552-2431.
Reach reporter Ian Hand at 541-776-4464 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/IanHand_DT.