Precautionary water quality monitoring underway following recent wildfires

Posted: October 3, 2023 at 2:01 p.m.

In response to the recent wildfires in the watersheds that provide Springfield’s drinking water, SUB has initiated additional water quality testing on both the Middle Fork Willamette River and the McKenzie River.

Wildfires can lead to a range of changes to water sources. Our goal is to monitor Springfield’s source water closely to ensure SUB customers continue to have access to clean and safe drinking water.

Watching for changes

One of the primary concerns post-wildfire is a potential increase in river water turbidity – the cloudiness or haziness of a fluid caused by large numbers of small particles. Wildfires can result in soil erosion, which, when washed into our rivers, raises the turbidity of the water. This not only affects the visual clarity of the water but can also pose challenges to our filtration processes.

Wildfires upstream of us can also lead to a change in water chemistry, caused by runoff from affected areas. We monitor the pH of our source water, as well as watch for the presence and levels of several minerals and other compounds in the water. One of particular concern is nitrogen: higher nitrogen levels can promote the growth of algae, which can negatively affect river water quality.

Good news to report

So far, our tests have not indicated any notable changes in the quality of our water. Should we observe any issues in the future, our system is well equipped to handle them. How? SUB has invested in infrastructure that allows us to access both groundwater and river water. This gives us options for managing changing operational conditions.

Our flexible system helps protect Springfield

SUB routinely uses this ability to balance seasonal change to our system, but it’s a particularly important tool for helping our community recover in the event of a natural disaster or other emergency.

Not all communities have this important flexibility built into their water systems. It’s one of the ways SUB, as stewards of Springfield’s water supply, protects the quality and abundance of our community’s precious water supply.