Sunrise Water: Your lights go out, but you can still open the tap
Every year over 13 billion gallons of water flows to the homes and businesses in urbanized Clackamas County. While floods, ice storms, wildfire, heat waves, drought and major supply-chain issues often disrupt power and other services, water providers respond and adapt to make sure your water there when you need it.
At the heart of the water systems are five treatment plants that have intake structures on the Clackamas River.
• City of Estacada, serving residents of Estacada
• Clackamas River Water, serving areas south of Oregon City and much of the unincorporated Clackamas area
• North Clackamas County Water Commission, serving Sunrise Water Authority (Happy Valley and Damascus), Oak Lodge Water Services District (Jennings Lodge and Oak Grove) and the city of Gladstone
• South Fork Water Board, serving Oregon City and West Linn
• Lake Oswego Tigard Water Partnership, serving Lake Oswego and Tigard
These water providers have created an intricate network of pipeline connections between the various plants, which allows for sharing of water supplies when one or more of the plants are out of service. For instance, trees borne by floodwaters smashed the South Fork Water Board intake structure in 2011, taking their treatment plant out of service for over a week. Within hours, treated water from the NCCWC treatment plant was routed to South Fork through emergency interconnections constructed with just such events in mind. It happened so seamlessly that Oregon City and West Linn customers had no idea there was even a problem.
Moreover, the cluster of emergency events that occurred during 2020 and 2021 tested how effectively the Clackamas water providers responded to disasters and emergencies. As far as customers could see, water-service delivery was unaffected by these disasters, but there were significant efforts behind the scenes required to make that happen.
Emergency storage capacity built into water distribution reservoirs is the first line of defense against service disruptions. During emergency events, this storage is often sufficient to bridge a short-term interruption. In larger-scale or longer-term events, it provides a window of time to plan or arrange for interim solutions or obtain additional aid.
Any widespread or prolonged power outage poses significant problems for delivery of water. Water providers have anticipated this issue and installed backup generators at critical facilities to make sure that when the lights are off, customers still have water.
Whether it is coordinating available chlorine supplies during a region-wide shortage, joint public messaging about conservation and demand reduction during the wildfires or being able to reroute water supplies on the fly in response to system damage, preplanning on communication is essential to emergency response.
Rest easy in the knowledge that water providers are planning and building safeguards into our systems and operations, both independently and in cooperation with others, that keeps the water flowing even when other services are down.
Join us in celebrating the reliability of our water systems during Drinking Water Week May 1-7.
Kim Anderson is the government relations manager for the Sunrise Water Authority. Find out more at facebook.com/SunriseWaterAuthority.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.