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Can You Imagine A Day Without Water?

October 21, 2020

Imagine a day without water

Turning on the tap for safe drinking water, and flushing the toilet with no second thought about what happens to wastewater, are actions most of us take for granted every day.

But this year as we face an enormous public health crisis stemming from the covid-19 pandemic, we must realize that reliable water service is something we depend on to protect our health and economy.

Turn on the tap and clean water flows out. Flush the toilet and dirty water goes away.

With a little soap and water, and two rounds of the happy birthday song, and viruses are annihilated.

Can you imagine making it through this pandemic without water on demand to wash your hands?

Imagine waking up and shuffling to the bathroom to brush your teeth, only to find nothing comes out of the faucet. Your toilet won't flush. You can't make your coffee. Forget about heating water for your oatmeal.

Thankfully, the above scenarios sound more like something out of a scary movie than real life. But take some time to Imagine a Day Without Water.

EWEB is joining hundreds of other water utilities today, Oct. 21, by taking the time to educate and advocate about the value of water. This is the sixth year of the event, and this year more than others is a good time to reflect on the water services we take for granted.

The good news is our community is blessed with a pristine source of water in the McKenzie River, an efficient water filtration plant, and the infrastructure to deliver clean tap water to your homes and businesses.

It's no accident that we can remove viruses, bacteria and other contaminants from your drinking water. Over the past 15 years, EWEB has spent more than $35 million to upgrade our Hayden Bridge Filtration Plant.

We spend millions of dollars each year replacing aging sections of pipe that delivers water to your homes and business. We rely on an 800-mile water pipe distribution network that runs under our streets.

In the past two decades, we have invested more that $15 million for water source protection in the McKenzie River Valley.

With the Holiday Farm Fire still fresh in our memories, imagine if there was no water to fight fires. The devastation caused by the wildfire is difficult to imagine - more than 430 homes destroyed, millions of dollars in electric infrastructure ruined and a heavily scarred watershed that will take years to restore.

The investments in our filtration facility will allow us to continue delivering high-quality water despite the damage to the river valley.

And we've taken the lead to protect and restore our sole source of water in the aftermath of the fire.

Wildfire can dramatically increase erosion in forests by reducing tree cover and altering the physical and chemical properties of soils. Post-fire ash, debris, and sediment can complicate water treatment, impact water quality for downstream communities, and challenge our source water protection efforts.

That's why we are working in partnership with forest management agencies, landowners and local nonprofits to identify threats to our water supply and public health resulting from the Holiday Farm Fire, prioritize watershed restoration activities and help with long-term community recovery.

One of the most urgent priorities is preventing hazardous debris and toxic ash from getting into the river and threatening water quality.

Approximately 150 properties have been identified as a high priority for early actions based on proximity to the river and location within the burn area. For these properties, EWEB offered free post-fire hazardous material stabilization, which involves pulling debris away from the riverbank and staging it on the property in a safe location above the high-water mark.

The debris and ash will be covered with plastic until they can be removed by a hazardous waste contractor at no charge to the property owner. Household hazardous materials such as paint cans and propane tanks will also be covered and stored for removal.

As part of this high priority work, our contractor also performed erosion control measures including setting up sediment fences, installing wood chip socks known as waddles and adding straw and mulch to appropriate areas.

In addition to the hazardous material stabilization, we are working with our Pure Water Partners to offer free site assessments for all properties along the McKenzie River that have been affected by the fire. Landowners will receive recommendations for tree removal, replanting and other erosion control measures.

At the Oct. 6, 2020, Board meeting, Commissioners approved reallocating $1 million of existing funds in order to address high priority risks associated with severely burned areas, which will include securing approximately 300,000 native seedlings and plant materials that can effectively treat about 200-300 acres of priority upland/riparian/floodplain impacted areas.

These and other investments, along with ongoing community support, will help keep a day without water purely imaginary.