Big Butte springs supplies cool, clear water

Next time you turn on your water think about the following and it might make that cool glass of water so much better.

In 1927 a pipeline was laid and put into commission. The line ran from Big Butte Springs, just above Butte Falls to Medford. This was the water source for Medford then, and still is. Not only does it serve Medford but also several other communities along the way, Eagle Point being one of them.

Prior to the pipeline being built, water was delivered to Medford via a wooden flume from Fish Lake. At this same time, in 1925 a geologist Ira Williams, rode on horseback and mapped the 56,000 acres that he thought was the watershed that fed Big Butte Springs. Amazingly the map he made back then is almost exactly the same as the map of the watershed still used today.

The pipe used for the new pipeline was made special to last for years and years and to remain rust free. The pipeline to town was constructed of 30-foot sections of arc-welded steel, which averaged 24 inches in diameter. Underground for its entire 30.5-mile length, the pipeline crossed nearly 75 different mountain summits. Development of additional springs and construction of a second pipeline were completed in 1951, doubling the capacity of the Big Butte Springs system. Willow Creek Dam was also constructed, forming Willow Lake. This impoundment supplies water to the Eagle Point Irrigation District, and thereby enables the Commission to more fully utilize the high quality springs water.

Pressure is primarily regulated by changing sizes of pipes as it flows down the hill. The pressure delivered to the faucet in ones home remains constant somewhere between 35 lbs. to 100 lbs. Whatever pressure zone you are in it does not change.

The springs were sealed in concrete to protect them from outside influence and then channeled directly into the pipeline. Today the first time the water we drink from the Big Butte Springs sees the light of day is when it comes out of the tap in our homes, keeping it the coolest, freshest water one could ask for.

The Medford Water Commission keeps a vigilant eye on the water source and the pipeline that carries it to town. The pipeline is checked almost daily and someone is on duty 24/7 to respond to any problems that may arise. During WWII there was even a guard dog on duty to keep intruders away from the springs, as they were the water source for Camp White. 

The water is treated with only the slightest bit of chlorine so it remains as pure as can be. The Water Master checks the flow and keeps air from getting into it by letting some of the water bypass the pipeline at all times. The water is mostly gravity fed to the valley. The only time pumps are used is if extra water is required. Additional water can be pumped from another spring into the main line to assure enough water is coming down the pipes. It takes approximately 7 hours at full flow for water from Big Butte Springs first pipeline to reach Capital Hill Reservoir, near Medford, which receives any water overflow.

At peak usage extra water can be brought into use from the Rogue River through the Duff treatment plant near White City. In the last few years changes have been made at the plant to make the water taste better. One of the main changes is the ozone room at the treatment plant. Ozone is a powerful oxidant widely used in water treatment to oxidize minerals, organic compounds, reduce taste and odors, eliminate color, and disinfect bacteria, virus, and protozoan cysts. The inherent features of ozone are its high oxidation potential and disinfection capabilities. The result being often the only way one would know where their water was coming from is by the temperature. The river water is warmer than the spring water.

Whichever place your water is coming from you can rest assured that it is being kept safe, as it has been for the last 83 years and that many people are working night and day to keep it coming.
By Kathy Sell
of the Independent


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