Nine days without power: My ice storm story as an EWEB customer and employee
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Preparation and Resilience: How EWEB Maintained Water Service During Recent Ice Storm
Learn about the projects and people that helped EWEB keep water flowing throughout the extreme weather event.Find Out More
EWEB crews focusing on restoring electric service for Hayden Bridge Water Filtration Plant
With more ice forecasted for Tuesday, all EWEB crews are in the field assessing outages and restoring power.Find Out More
Let's talk turkey. If a disaster strikes, is your family ready?
Many of us avoid discussing politics over the dinner table in the spirit of family peace and harmony. But here's a topic that can bring everyone together: emergency preparedness.Find Out More
Your EWEB Rates at Work: Investing Today for a Resilient Tomorrow
For more than a century, EWEB has planned, built, and maintained the systems that deliver safe, reliable, and environmentally responsible power and water to Eugene homes and businesses.Find Out More
EWEB’s water infrastructure projects designed for reliability during major disasters
As communities nationwide Imagine a Day Without Water, EWEB strives to ensure such a day never happens.Find Out More
Fall is the perfect time to prepare for winter storm season
Winter is coming, which increases the likelihood of storm-related power outages. It's important to be prepared, and there are simple actions you can take right now.Find Out More
EWEB lead annual "Spill Drill"
EWEB coordinates drill as part of protecting Eugene’s drinking waterFind Out More
Salmon Return to Finn Rock Reach
Finn Rock Reach and other restoration projects throughout the Middle McKenzie provide conditions to help young fish survive to adulthood.Find Out More
EWEB programs reflect community values
EWEB is here to serve our customer-owners and provides programs that reflect the values of our community.Find Out More
EWEB Prepares for the Annual Observance of "Imagine a Day Without Water"
Water infrastructure is essential, invaluable, and in need of continuous investment. Read how EWEB's Staff and Board of Commissioners are working to safeguard Eugene's water future.Find Out More
National Preparedness Month: Older adults take control in 1, 2, 3
We know older adults can face greater risks when it comes to the extreme weather events and emergencies we face, especially if they are living alone, are low-income, have a disability, depend on electricity for medical needs, or live in rural areas.Find Out More
Bethel neighbors boost emergency preparedness during Emergency Water Station event
Staff gave out about 300 emergency water containers to enthusiastic community members eager to learn more about the water station.Find Out More
How does EWEB recover the costs of serving customers
Here’s an overview of the three primary ways EWEB recovers the costs of serving customers and generates the funds needed to keep the power on and the water flowing.Find Out More
Stay cool during extreme heat events
With temperatures forecasted to reach over 100 degrees over the next several days, we've prepared some tips and tricks to help you stay cool.Find Out More
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Women in STEM: Meet the engineer behind Eugene’s newest water infrastructure project
September 19, 2022 • Rachael McDonald, EWEB Communications
Laura Farthing didn’t always know she wanted to be an engineer. But when a man in rural Kenya told her he’d only install a water spigot for an orphanage if she agreed to marry him, she realized she could do his job.
“I was like, wait, you’re an engineer? Farthing said. “I think I could be an engineer.”
Farthing volunteered at an orphanage between Kenya and Nairobi after graduating from the University of Oregon with a BS in Environmental Studies.
Farthing said the women in the village spent hours each day walking miles to get water for their families because there wasn’t nearby access to safe drinking water.
“You know, they walk five, ten miles a day,” Farthing said. “So, you don't have time to go to college. You don't have time to go and have a job as an engineer. So, from that standpoint I'm quite passionate about getting water to people.”
Farthing refused to marry that Kenyan water engineer. Instead, she returned to Oregon and got her master’s degree in civil engineering at Oregon State University.
“Well, I know it changed my life forever. I mean, it's how I got into engineering, in the first place.”
Farthing said access to safe drinking water can bring women out of poverty, but in many parts of the world, that’s not a reality. Here in the U.S., it’s easy to take accessible drinking water for granted.
“And I think it's one of the more amazing things we have in this country that for the most part, you can go anywhere, drink the water, and it's safe,” said Farthing.
EWEB customers are uniquely fortunate to get our drinking water from the pristine McKenzie River. It’s treated at Hayden Bridge Filtration Plant and then piped to several reservoirs in Eugene. The city’s reservoirs are aging and no longer meet seismic or health standards.
Farthing has been working for EWEB for the past 14 years. She’s the lead engineer on EWEB’s water storage construction project near E. 40th and Patterson St.
“These tanks will have the ability to provide water to all of EWEB’s about 180,000 customers,” Farthing said.
She’s managing the construction of two 7.5-million-gallon tanks on this 10-acre property. The new tanks will provide seismically resilient drinking water storage for Eugene and make it possible to replace aging infrastructure in other areas of the community.
“Their lifespan, it’s replacing the College Hill Reservoir which has been in place since 1939, so these are big legacy projects that could potentially be here for 100 years,” said Farthing.
The state has ordered EWEB to replace College Hill Reservoir due to its seismic issues. Knowing that replacement storage would eventually be needed, EWEB purchased the 10-acre property near E. 40th Ave. and Patterson St in the 1950s specifically for this use. Approximately 2.5 acres will be used for water storage and the remainder of the property will remain open to the public. Habitat will be restored or enhanced to support a diverse community of native plants and animals.
“We worked with a team of ecologists and our arborists. And we really paid attention to where we sited the tanks,” said Farthing.
The oak savannah and woodland habitat have been preserved and the plan is to improve the area for oak health.
“We tried to fit and blend in with the natural environment as well as creating large infrastructure that will support the health of the community for the long term. Which has been fun to show that you can build large infrastructure next to native oak savannah and still protect it and make it all work together.”
She said many of the trees they removed were unhealthy or dying. Fir trees are not drought tolerant; preservation of oak savannah is more sustainable in the long term.
Farthing’s supervisor, Wally McCullough has worked with her at EWEB and previously at a consulting firm. He said she’s risen to the many challenges of this project.
“It’s a big project and it had a lot of challenges that Laura overcame. I mean, she's done a great job and she deserves a lot of recognition for it,” said McCullough.
McCullough said Farthing has faced challenges, being a woman in a male-dominated field. He remembered a time Farthing was meeting with someone about the water storage project when they interrupted her and said they wanted to talk to the person in charge. “Oh, I want to talk to the engineer. I want to talk to him. And he pointed to me because I was the white male.”
Does Laura Farthing still think about those women in Africa walking 10 miles a day to get water? Yes. She’d like to go back someday to help build water infrastructure. But for now, she’s busy with two young sons and a major infrastructure project here in Eugene that will serve the community and provide safe, reliable water for generations to come.