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What if a water crisis happens here?

May 31, 2018

Little boy drinking at a sink with cupped hands

For over 100 years, we have served the community with clean, clear water drawn from the mountain-fed McKenzie River. But should something happen to disrupt our water system, there is only a one- or two-day supply of water, stored in reservoirs throughout the community.

There's always the possibility that a natural or human-caused disaster could affect us here in Eugene. Emergencies that could result in a water supply shortage include earthquake, drought, forest fire in our watershed, severe flood, a chemical spill into the McKenzie River, and a system or facility failure.

The recent crisis in Salem has resulted from toxic algae blooms in Detroit Lake. Water from the lake flows into the North Santiam River, which is Salem's drinking water source.

We regularly monitor our community drinking water source, the McKenzie River, for algae blooms and other water quality issues. Although cyanotoxins are a real threat to the watershed, we have never detected toxic algae at our water intake. Monitoring water quality from "source to tap" helps ensure the quality of your drinking water. 

Nevertheless, the contamination at Detroit Lake is a reminder that continued investment, planning and preparation is needed to ensure uninterrupted delivery of safe, high-quality drinking water.

We're investing in long-term reliability of our drinking water system

In case of an emergency, our community is going to need access to clean water for drinking, public health and safety, so we're making strategic investments in key components of the water system. Our Water Reliability Initiative includes several infrastructure reliability projects over the next 10 years, including replacing water mains, upgrading interties, upgrading or building new reservoirs, adding back-up electrical power to pump stations and expanding the Hayden Bridge Filtration Plant.

We're also working with community partners to develop an emergency water supply program that will include several permanent distribution sites located throughout the community. Each distribution site would be configured as a joint water and electric facility with a well, water treatment system, standby generator, and a microgrid to provide reliable standby power. Our plan calls for the development of five geographically dispersed well sites within the next five years, with the first set to go operational in fall 2018.

Emergency preparedness is a shared responsibility

We are taking steps to prepare for an emergency in our community, whether human-caused or a natural disaster. You can do your part by building an emergency supply kit for your household. If a natural or man-made disaster occurs, you can rest easier knowing you are better prepared with a household emergency kit. Putting together your own kit is simple and easy, and it begins with having on hand a minimum of one gallon of water per person per day for drinking and basic sanitation. The Oregon Office of Emergency Management encourages residents to be prepared to be on their own for a minimum of two weeks. For tips and resources on building an emergency kit, visit