- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 19, 2015

COOS BAY, Ore. (AP) - Earlier this summer, Coos County became one of 23 of Oregon’s 36 counties to be declared in a state of drought emergency by Gov. Kate Brown.

While this is the second year that the county has had to deal with the impacts associated with low snow pack levels and water conditions, the water users in Coos Bay and North Bend have not felt much of a sting.

In fact, Rob Schab, the general manager of the Coos Bay-North Bend Water Board, said it would take a lack of any rainfall whatsoever, between now and mid-December, before the water board would even start to think about curtailing customer water usage.

That is a result, he said, of the community stepping up to the plate and funding a major water supply project at the turn of the century.

Before the project, which most noticeably increased capacity at the Upper Pony Creek Reservoir, the water board customers were experiencing low water drought conditions every 10 years - conditions that required cutting back on water usage.

There are two primary surface water reservoirs in the system. The Upper Pony Creek Reservoir is now capable of holding 2 billion gallons of water. Merritt Reservoir can hold 125 million gallons.

The average daily demand for treated water at the Coos Bay-North Bend Water Board last year was over 4 million gallons, with a peak of just over 6 million gallons per day.

“With that water supply project, completed in 2001, at the end of the life-span of that project, figured to be 30 to 40 years out, we’d only be experiencing curtailed water use once in 20 years,” Schab said as he looked out over the Upper Pony Creek Reservoir on Friday.

The water board’s most recent annual report noted that, as of June 2014, it was serving 12,839 customers inside the city limits of Coos Bay and North Bend. Another 2,878 customers were living outside city limits.

Overall, the total population served by the water board is approximately 34,500, within a service area of about 100 square miles.

Schab said there is also still plenty of room to accommodate growth.

“(The water supply project) took into account development of some industry, and some potential growth that might come out of that,” he said. “So, even with possible future development in the community, the water board envisions the supply to be adequate.”

Despite all of that good news in mind, the water board stresses that people should still be responsible consumers.

“Use water wisely,” Schab said. “We don’t want people to waste water. That is not in the best interest of the community, from environmental stewardship of the community or just a waste of a natural resource. However, the community did make a $22 million investment in our water supply. So, they should be able to use that investment that they put money in to.”

The community backed the project, with planning that dates back to 1992, through water rates.

The project started to pick up steam in 1994-1995, leading to six years of permitting and two years of construction.

“In 2001, the community had built a water supply that is going to be robust enough that it can weather two years of back-to-back drought,” Schab said. “As the representative for the community, the water board was on point on that.

“Several years before I got here, countywide water studies were being conducted and different options were being looked at. When I arrived on the scene in January of 1994, those options had started to narrow down.”

Building the supply, though, was just the first phase of a lengthy three-phase project that is still in play.

“The first thing is you have to have the water. The second thing is you have to have the treatment, and we’ve completed that (in 2013). The third thing is that we have to make sure the system has the integrity to deliver that quantity and quality of water, over a period of time, out to all of the customers. That is the third leg of the stool that we are working on now.”


Information from: The World, https://www.theworldlink.com

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