EWEB Will Tap Aquifer for Backup Water Supply

Article excerpt

Byline: SCOTT MABEN The Register-Guard

Up to seven wells will be drilled in north Eugene to give the city a backup supply of water in case the McKenzie River becomes muddy from a flood or landslide or tainted by a hazardous materials spill.

The well field - the first for the Eugene Water & Electric Board - will tap an aquifer 200 to 500 feet deep and will operate only in emergencies ranging from threats to the river supply to heat waves that push demand above supply.

The project, which also includes a small treatment plant and pipeline linking the wells to the city's water supply, will cost about $11 million and will be financed with bonds. Water rates most likely will go up slightly to help pay off the bonds and to operate the well field, but probably not for several more years.

The first two production wells will go on either side of Coburg Road north of Crescent Avenue in May and June and could be pumping water by mid-2004.

Two more wells will go in early next year, and up to three more could be drilled in spring 2004 if needed to meet the supply goal of 10 million to 15 million gallons a day. EWEB will sink more wells over the next 10 years to bring the daily capacity up to 20 million to 30 million gallons.

Water customers use a low of 18 million to 22 million gallons a day in winter and a high of 45 million to 50 million gallons a day in summer.

EWEB has relied on the McKenzie for all its water for 75 years. It's the largest municipal utility in the Northwest with a single source of water. The Springfield Utility Board draws its water from 23 wells. Portland and Salem both have backup wells in place.

"It's a vulnerability that our planning had identified quite a while back," said Jay Bozievich, the water division engineer in charge of the project.

A variety of scenarios could bar EWEB from using McKenzie water, which now serves more than 162,000 Eugene area residents.

An extremely high water flow could churn up more soil than the Hayden Bridge filtration and treatment plant could handle, Bozievich said. An earthquake or fire could knock the plant offline. A tanker truck could crash on Highway 126 and spill a harmful chemical in the McKenzie.

"Now we even have to think about a terrorist act," Bozievich said.

Record demand for water during a hot spell also could prompt EWEB to turn on the well pumps, but utility officials believe that's unlikely to happen in the foreseeable future.

The 1998 water supply plan that proposed the well field also called for upgrades to ensure the Hayden Bridge plant continues to supply all the water EWEB customers need. A new 15 million-gallon reservoir under construction at the plant will allow it to run at full strength even when demand drops at night. …