Oakland residents are being asked to conserve water as drought conditions push the city toward a possible shortage.
It’s not an emergency yet, said Oakland Mayor Bette Keehley. But it could become one if the skies remain dry through the end of August.
It’s the closest to a water crisis the city has been in the 40 years it’s been keeping records. The hot, dry weather has pushed Calapooya Creek, the city’s water source, to critically low levels.
“Every year we have a bit of a problem. Our creek goes very low, but this year it’s started going low way earlier than it normally would,” Keehley said.
A beneficial weather event could still turn things around, though, Keehley said.
The city has never yet run out of water. The one time it had a close scare was in the 1990s, but an August rainstorm arrived in time to save the water supply.
“If a storm blew through here, we would be very, very happy. We would accept it with open arms, and we would probably be out of the range of a catastrophe,” Keehley said.
In the meantime, the city of Oakland is asking both residents and other users of Calapooya Creek water to conserve.
Among the suggestions are to stop watering lawns in the middle of the day, and to not wash cars or fill ponds, pools or bird baths until the situation improves. Other ways to help include turning off the shower while soaping up and turning off the sink while brushing teeth — in both cases, turning the water on just to rinse. The city also hopes residents will avoid flushing toilets unless it’s necessary, following the adage “If it’s yellow let it mellow. If it’s brown flush it down.”
Purchasing drinking water is also suggested.
For now, these suggestions are requests, but they may become mandates if the water shortage continues.
City officials are also recommending that sensitive groups of people boil their tap water after algae was found in the water. So far, the more dangerous blue-green algea has not been found, but boiling tap water is still recommended for infants and people with compromised immune systems.
These sensitive groups shouldn’t consume any water from a faucet or refrigerator water dispenser, or from any ice dispenser, even a commercial one, that’s sourced from city water. Soft drinks from machines that mix syrup with city water also aren’t safe for people with compromised immune systems and infants. Boiling does not provide enough protection for this group of people either, so coffee and tea from city water shouldn’t be consumed either.
If the water does run out, Oakland has options open to it, Keehley said. Oakland officials will meet with the watermaster next week to discuss what might be done. People above Oakland in the water stream have been asked not to use that water, and the watermaster could enforce the city’s water rights if necessary. Keehley said she hopes that in the meantime water users outside the city obtain bulk water from other sources, something that would be much easier for an individual rancher to do than the entire city of Oakland.