For nearly 90 years, the community of Eugene has relied on the McKenzie River as our only source of drinking water. Some other cities in the valley get their drinking water from the Willamette River. After years of careful planning for the future, EWEB will join Corvallis, Wilsonville, Hillsboro, Beaverton and other communities by tapping into this high-quality water source.
Of the 20 largest cities in the Northwest, Eugene is the only one with a single source of drinking water. While the McKenzie River will continue to be Eugene's primary water source, EWEB is in the early stages of developing an additional water supply on the Willamette River.
EWEB has made numerous attempts to build a second water treatment plant over the last several decades. In 2017, Commissioners directed staff to postpone planning and funding for the project, and instead focus short-term efforts on developing Emergency Water Stations. Since then, EWEB has worked with community partners to construct five emergency water distribution sites throughout the community.
Accessing the Willamette River as a redundant source is an important next step to ensure we can provide drinking water to our customers in case an emergency impacts the Hayden Bridge Filtration Plant or McKenzie River supply.
At the utility's October 2021 public Board meeting, Chief Operations Officer Karen Kelley and Water Engineering Supervisor Wally McCullough presented information about the proposed plant and associated transmission project to the EWEB Board and heard input on the scope and commitment to fund the project. Commissioners toured a potential treatment plant site in late 2021.
Eugene will continue to rely on the McKenzie River as our primary drinking water source as it has for many generations. But as we look into the future, having only one water source places us at great risk during an emergency.
Clean water is vital to public health, safety and the economy, so planning is underway for EWEB's biggest investment in water reliability—an alternate water source on the Upper Willamette River.
The new intake would be near the confluence of the Coast and Middle Forks, where thousands of acres of land are already protected for natural habitats thanks to groups like the Nature Conservancy, Friends of Buford Park, and Lane County. The McKenzie River Trust is in the process of taking over ownership of these areas to form the 1,300 acre Willamette Confluence Preserve, important floodplain lands immediately upstream of the intake. The collaborative approach MRT and EWEB have developed in the McKenzie Basin will help extend similar stewardship approaches upstream in the Coast and Middle Forks of the Willamette.
Studies show the water quality in the upper Willamette is excellent. EWEB testing since 2013 shows water quality is similar to that at the McKenzie River intake location less than five miles away. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality scores the Willamette River at 92.94/100 "Excellent" on the Oregon Water Quality Index less than a mile downstream of the proposed intake.
The smaller plant on the Willamette River will be built to modern seismic standards and use contemporary technology to increase our resilience during emergencies. This investment will enhance the reliability of our community's most vital resource, clean drinking water, for generations to come.
This investment will enhance the reliability of our community's most vital resource, clean drinking water, for generations to come.Read FAQ
Protecting the McKenzie River Watershed helps to ensure excellent drinking water quality for customers and residents today and into the future.
Learn more about your drinking water, including how you can help keep our public water supply clean through backflow prevention. Also check out tips for preventing freezing pipes.