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Dallas Explores Water Supply Options

Dallas could face water shortages in 10 years.

DALLAS -- Dallas could face water shortages in 10 years.

Something needs to be done, said Kenn Carter, the city's assistant public works director.

One thing is already being done. City crews are adding flash boards to increase the amount of water Mercer Reservoir can hold.

The boards will be put in before it stops raining this spring.

However, it is not a permanent solution. "The boards will buy us another five years," Carter said.

More needs to be done to increase the reservoir's storage capacity. Plus, new sources of water need to be found.

That's the conclusion of an assessment of the Rickreall Watershed Council. Water supply problems are not unique to Dallas or Polk County.

The Rickreall watershed is in pretty good shape, said Hugh Buchanan, chairman of the watershed council. Buchanan is also the regional environmental coordinator at Willamette Industries.

"The pluses and minuses of our watershed are similar to others in the state," he said.

However, there are a couple of concerns.

One is the low volume of water in the lower reaches of Rickreall Creek during the dry summer months. A related problem is hot summer temperatures.

The flash boards are a response to those problems.

Even as the city's population increases, city officials will be able to meet the demand for water.

For now.

Low water levels pose some decidedly challenging problems, according to the report. Less water means more of it is filled with chemically treated sewage.

Carter said the water coming out of the city's sewage treatment plant is actually cleaner than the water flowing downstream from the reservoir.

City sewage is chemically treated and exposed to ultraviolet light before it goes back to the creek.

The city's reservoir has been filling with silt from steep hillsides nearby.

The Rock Creek fire of 1987 didn't help. It burned 40 percent of the land in the upper watershed. The huge Pacific storms of 1996 caused to soil to run off the hillsides into the reservoir.

The report estimated the reservoir lost 10 to 25 acre feet of storage space.

The flashboards will add 170 acre feet.

City officials have talked about creating another reservoir. There is also talk of creating a regional water system with Monmouth and Independence.

Monmouth and Independence residents are dependent on wells for their drinking water.

They have plenty of water except on days when everyone is washing their cars and watering their lawns at the same time.

There might be five days a year that city officials can't meet the demand.

Dallas officials might help out. "Then they could divert water to us if we run short in the reservoir," Carter said.

Water temperature is another issue.

Dallas officials have been planting vegetation along Rickreall Creek to provide some shade and keep the water cooler.

Members of the watershed council are also asking the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board for a $54,000 grant. The money will be used to restore about 400 feet of eroded stream bank at the Delbert H. Hunter Arboretum in Dallas City Park.

If they get the money, watershed council members, Willamette Industries, Dalton Rock, arboretum volunteers and the city have collectively promised the money and labor to get the job done.

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