Molalla eyes water conservation meaures
Drought conditions in Oregon have the city of Molalla looking ahead to what could be in terms of water use within the city.
So, with that in mind, the Molalla City Council adopted a first step water curtailment measure for the city during its July 13 meeting.
Oregon is in its fourth year of what can be officially termed "drought" conditions. Molalla city staff members have continued to monitor flows in the Molalla River and water use by customers. According to the city, river flows are approximately half of the 66-year average and precipitation this past winter was less than 75% of normal.
Based on high temperatures, low rainfall forecasts, low river flows and continued water use, city staff recommended that the Molalla City Council activate the Water Curtailment Plan outlined in the 2021 Water Management, Conservation and Water System Master Plan.
Additionally, staff recommended that the council authorize City Manager Dan Huff to adjust the alert levels in the plan so that staff can respond quickly to changes in conditions.
"We are trying to be a little bit proactive here," Huff said. "From a city standpoint, we haven't been irrigating our parks, and we've started our own curtailments to try to preserve some of the water that's out there. We are also trying to get the community to help us with that, and to recognize that we could reach a point where we could curtail water use."
With the passage of Resolution 2021-19 on Juy 13, the first step was taken for being ready for something more severe.
"If people just begin to conserve, we do not believe we will go beyond Level 1," Huff said.
For the immediate future, Molalla will work under the first alert stage, which means:
1. Water status sign will indicate Water Alert Stage No. 1.
2. Call for voluntary reduction in all water use or mandates for watering.
3. Prohibit outside watering between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.
4. Restrict outside watering for even addresses on even numbered days and odd addresses on odd numbered days.
5. Prohibit water wasted down gutters or streets and wash down of paved surfaces, streets and structures.
6. Water use for wash down of paved surfaces and structures only for health and safety purposes.
7. Public outreach promoting conservation.
8. Cease issuance of new bulk water meters for construction. Existing bulk water meters for construction allowed.
10. Prohibit new hook-ups to the city's water system.
11. Prohibit water to be used by fire department for drills or truck washing.
As the resolution states, however, as conditions change, Huff has the authorization to change the alert stage. Water alert stage 1 is the lowest of the alert stages, which range to Stage 4, which would be a critical water emergency.
"We need to be conscious of that (water use}," Huff said. "We are hoping people could work with us a little bit. What this resolution basically does is say that the council recognizes that we could have a water shortage. If we come to a point where we have to curtail water use in Molalla, it may not fall conveniently on the night of a council meeting. It allows the city manager to react immediately when we reach that point where we have to curtail.
"We've had threats of this before and never really got to this," Huff added. "One thing we do know, once you start talking about this, people will come up with all kinds of questions."
To that end, Huff said the city is working on some new easy-to-understand materials that will explain what's happening, why and what can be done about it. They hope to have those out very soon.
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