Willamette River
Willamette River (Getty Images)

City Manager Chris Workman had interesting news coming out of discussions with the Benton County Board of Commissioners and other city managers involving the potential for a regional approach to water availability.

During the Dec. 14 City Council meeting, Workman reviewed discussions that had gone on during a Dec. 11 meeting. Each month, the county’s city managers meet with commissioners to discuss various topics.

“We’ve got a meeting scheduled for January to really focus in on the cities of Albany, Corvallis, Adair Village, Philomath and potentially down to Monroe on how we can add some redundancy to our water systems with some agreements between jurisdictions,” Workman said.

Workman was referring to a plan on how cities can work together in catastrophic or emergency situations.

“If the Willamette River had some contamination, Marys River, any of those sources had an issue, it’d be nice to have those agreements in place already where we know we just need to go out and turn some valves in order to have water to whatever jurisdiction needed it rather than trying to flush out … those agreements on the spot in an emergency.”

Workman, however, hopes that discussions evolve beyond the emergency agreements.

“There are hopes that conversation may lead to additional conversations about how we can be more interdependent on one another, how we can use the region’s water resources as a region, rather than siphoning it all up into individual jurisdictions and everybody kind of doing their own thing,” Workman said.

“If there’s a way we can all play nice with our region when it comes to water, that makes a lot of sense for all of our residents,” he added. “The city managers are committed to that effort and so I’m looking forward to being able to report more back to the council once we’ve got some additional agreements pulled together and see what that might look like.”

Workman said it’s generally believed that those discussions would involve something like a 10-year process but he added, “I tend to be more impatient, I’m thinking within the next several months I’d like to see something come forward from those conversations and within the few next years, maybe have some opportunities for some additional agreements there.”

Workman told councilors that he was being somewhat vague because he didn’t want to overspeak the intent they’re trying to reach but did say “being able to collaborate with other jurisdictions about water rights and water availability is huge.”

He said it’s something being seen in other places.

“That’s a trend we’re seeing up in the metro area, it’s a trend we’re starting to see in areas where there are water shortages,” Workman said. “I think we’re wise to be a little more proactive in that and try to get those agreements in place before we start having the water shortage issues that we’re starting to see in other parts of the country.”

Philomath residents have brought up concerns in the past about potential water shortages in the city, including within the past few years through public comments at city meetings and hearings on developments. Workman’s report shows that city managers have the desire to move forward with actions that could safeguard water supplies. And that’s a good thing.

(Daily Scoop is a blog published by the Philomath News. This blog often contains news items but also could include opinions of Brad Fuqua, publisher/editor).