News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

City urges water conservation

Despite above-normal precipitation levels and below-normal temperatures in April, state climatology experts predict it will be warmer and drier than normal in the coming summer months. Snowpack and reservoir levels are currently below average for this time of year, and ongoing drought conditions are affecting both the local community and natural resources. With that prediction, the City of Sisters is encouraging community members to conserve water and reduce water waste.

The City’s water supply comes from groundwater, and the City has been implementing efforts to ensure they can continue to provide the community with a reliable supply from this high-quality drinking water source.

The City began practicing water conservation in 2011 when the Public Works Department installed subsurface drip systems along Main Street.

Since then, City Hall has been retrofitted and the City flower beds throughout town are now irrigated with the same subsurface drip system.

Public Works Director Paul Bertagna said that the drip systems save 50 percent of the City’s irrigation water.

The splash pad in Fir Street Park is being retrofitted to recycle the water.

It will be treated with ultraviolet light to keep users safe.

In addition to the drip systems, the City has a Water Management and Conservation Plan approved by Oregon Water Resources Department and has implemented a number of water conservation measures beginning seven years ago. These efforts have included:

- Replacing turfgrass in medians with low-water-use landscaping.

- Updating road design standards to use drain rock in swales instead of turf in all new subdivisions.

- Implementing a leak-detection program, including replacing old water lines.

- Educating the community about water conservation through information on the City’s website, and providing water-saving devices free of charge.

While the City anticipates that the municipal water supply will be sufficient this summer, water in the High Desert remains incredibly precious. Bertagna urged the public to use our water responsibly, to maintain the livability and prosperity of our community.

“In drought conditions, we all need to make an effort to use our water wisely. Water conservation is key in reducing pressure on our groundwater sources, and our biggest opportunity for water savings is from more efficient irrigation practices,” said Bertagna.

Here are some ways community members can help reduce their irrigation water use during the ongoing drought:

- Irrigate at night or in the early morning to reduce water loss to evaporation.

- Check for leaks in irrigation lines, outdoor spigots, and indoor water fixtures – even a slow drip adds up to a lot of wasted water.

- Adjust sprinkler heads if you see runoff on the driveway, sidewalk, or street.

- Use a hose timer or install a weather-based irrigation system controller or a soil moisture sensor to prevent overwatering.

- Replace all or part of your lawn with native, low-water-use plants.

The City monitors water usage every day, 365 days a year at all four municipal wells. The average usage in November is 500,000-700,000 gallons a day. Last summer, there were 2.5 million gallons pumped in one day.

The charges for City water include a base rate determined by the meter size plus $1 for every 100 cubic feet of water used (100 cu. ft. = 750 gallons).

With the June utility bill from the City, whether mailed or online, is a flyer – Help the City of Sisters Conserve Water. Anything you can do to water more efficiently, to prevent waste, and to minimize irrigated areas will help protect the resiliency of Sisters Country. On the City website under Public Works is a detailed discussion on both summer and winter outdoor water conservation.

On June 21, from 4 to 6 p.m., there is a Celebrate Sisters function at Creekside Park, sponsored by Citizens4Community and the City. There will be a pop-up display by the Public Works Department dealing with conservation of water. They will have low-water-use landscaping pamphlets, outdoor water gauges, and indoor conservation kits to hand out at no charge, while supplies last. The conservation kits include low-flow shower heads, sink aerators, and a bag to put in the toilet tank to reduce water usage. These materials are also available at City Hall.


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