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After serving Eugene for over 80 years, the 15-million-gallon (MG) College Hill Reservoir has reached the end of its useful life. EWEB will dismantle the leaky and antiquated reservoir and replace it in the next few years with new, modern drinking water storage tanks built to withstand major earthquakes.
Why is this project necessary?
EWEB's College Hill reservoir—which serves all Eugene homes and businesses, and provides emergency water for critical community needs, including fire suppression—is nearing the end of its useful life and fails to meet current seismic standards. It is unlikely to survive a major earthquake, resulting in Eugene losing critical supplies of safe drinking water in the event of a disaster.
In addition, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) is requiring EWEB to rehabilitate or decommission the reservoir by the end of this year because of leaking roof joints, which creates the potential to degrade the water quality.
And from an operations standpoint, the College Hill reservoir does not drain and fill effectively, which impacts water quality.
Constructing a new water storage facility at College Hill and decommissioning the existing facility is the most cost-effective solution long-term and will improve water quality and resiliency for all Eugene residents.
April 5, 2023: Construction at College Hill Reservoir could begin as early as 2024. EWEB plans to replace the existing 15-million-gallon reservoir with two smaller tanks that will store 7.5 million gallons each, comparable to the tanks currently under construction at E. 40th. Smaller tanks are part of an EWEB strategy to diversify Eugene’s water storage system, enhancing resiliency, water quality, and operations.
EWEB informed neighbors in 2020 of plans to take College Hill out of service and has spent nearly three years evaluating a demolition and construction schedule.
At this time, EWEB anticipates that the public will continue to have access to the top of the existing reservoir at least through 2023, but the new tanks, once constructed, will be fenced to protect drinking water quality.
EWEB will "decommission" (drain the water) the College Hill Reservoir before the end of 2023, pending completion of the replacement water storage project underway at E. 40th Ave.
At this time, we anticipate that the public will continue to have access to the top of the existing reservoir at least through 2023.
Demolition and construction could begin as early as 2024.
We are committed to keeping our customer-owners informed about this project. In addition to information posted on this website, we will share regular updates through email, social media (follow us @EWEButility), traditional news media, and other channels.
For any property retained by EWEB and not used for water storage and protection, site neighbors and other residents will be invited to participate in decisions that involve:
A public outreach and participation process will begin in 2023. Opportunities to be involved and share feedback will be advertised on this website and other channels.
The College Hill Reservoirs were constructed in the 1930s with a Public Works Administration matching grant and are therefore considered significant historic features. EWEB has begun working with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and a consultant to ensure we follow recommendations for historically significant facilities. Part of this process includes a public process to gather input on mitigation strategies that appropriately honor College Hill historic features and its role in our community. We intend to begin collecting input in 2023 as part of the public outreach and participation process.
Read the College Hill Reservoir Intensive Level Survey submitted by Historical Research Associates, Inc.
We are tracking questions and input from the public. If you are curious about a specific aspect of the project or want to submit a comment, email the EWEB project team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
EWEB to replace aging College Hill Reservoir with new earthquake-proof storage tanks (4/5/2023)
Water storage improvements for College Hill Reservoir (FAN Newsletter) (July 2021)
Timeline may change for reservoir replacement (FAN Newsletter) (April 2021)
Neighbor meeting letter and FAQ (January 2020)
Summary of stakeholder interviews (August 2019)
News media coverage:
Register Guard (4/16/2023) Earthquake-proof storage tanks to replace College Hill Reservoir
KLCC (4/6/2023) On tap: major water storage changes in Eugene
KVAL (4/5/2023) EWEB's College Hill Reservoir being replaced following OHA inspection
KMTR (4/5/2023) EWEB replacing College Hill Water Reservoir
Whole Community News (4/5/2023) EWEB eyes 2024 start for new College Hill tanks
Register Guard Opinion (3/17/2022) Remembering the historic College Hill Reservoir 607
Eugene Weekly Viewpoint (6/17/2021) College Hill 607
Historical Research Associates, Inc. College Hill Reservoir Intensive Level Survey (May 2020)
Engineering structural evaluation (1/10/2014)
What would happen to College Hill in an earthquake today and will the new water tanks be built to withstand a Cascadia level event?
The current facility was built without any consideration of seismic events and we can’t say for sure what will happen, but it would likely fail to hold water under any significant earthquake event. However, concrete tanks are not likely to fail catastrophically in an earthquake. The new facility will be built to the highest level of resiliency withstand and provide drinking water after a major earthquake.
Why can’t EWEB repair tank?
The 80-year-old structure would require significant retrofitting and expensive maintenance to protect the drinking water inside. Even after these investments, the tanks would still be vulnerable to earthquake damage.
Is there any way to drain the tank and leave it in place?
No. Our community needs the stored water at College Hill to meet demand and ensure there is sufficient pressure in the system for firefighting and other public uses. To ensure everyone in Eugene has safe, reliable water, the existing tanks must be replaced with new storage.
Can we build replacement storage somewhere else?
No. College Hill is part of a network of tanks that must be at exactly 607 feet in elevation for Eugene’s gravity-fed water system to function. Vacant property at the right elevation is nearly impossible to acquire and it would not be practical or a responsible use of customer dollars to abandon College Hill.
Where will the new tanks be located and what will they look like?
This will be determined during the engineering planning process over the next several months. Our hope is that the tanks can be located mostly within the footprint of the existing reservoirs on the site with about the same amount of the tank visible above ground as the existing structure. EWEB will provide architectural renderings to help show what the site will look like with the new tanks in place.
Will the public be able to use the surface of the new tank(s)?
Contemporary public health standards require that drinking water facilities need to be secure. And that's just common sense for protecting water quality. The new tanks will have a small access road around them and decorative fencing/landscaping around the perimeter.
Will the public be able to use other areas of the site?
Yes. We plan to maintain open public space at College Hill.
Can I provide ideas and suggestions for public uses of the site?
Yes. However, decisions that affect water quality, safety, and engineering (such as tank size, siting, elevation, and security measures) must be made by qualified staff to comply with regulations.
The valuable opportunities for public input involve site aesthetics and amenities. For property retained by EWEB and not used for storing and protecting drinking water, site neighbors and other residents will be invited to participate in decisions that involve:
The public participation process will start in 2023. Opportunities for public input will be widely advertised on EWEB’s website, through neighborhood association newsletters, email communications, and other channels.
We are building two new 7.5 million gallon earthquake-proof tanks on an undeveloped 10-acre site.
We are working with community partners to develop an emergency water supply program that includes several permanent distribution sites located throughout the community using groundwater wells, as well as mobile water trailers.