When you sip a glass of tap water in Springfield, you are enjoying some of the highest quality drinking water in the world. Where does that water come from? The majority comes from 35 wells distributed throughout Springfield, and the remainder is pumped directly from the Middle Fork Willamette River.
Springfield has high-quality, plentiful water thanks to the Willamette and McKenzie rivers and the aquifers in the valleys beneath them. These vast underground aquifers are made up of water-bearing rock and geologic material, like sand and gravel, that vary in size and trap water in the spaces between them. Though most of us don’t see it, this crucial source of drinking water is right beneath us, and needs special protection.
As water moves through the aquifer, the earth’s geology acts as a natural filter and purifies our water. In fact, it does such a good job that the water requires minimal additional treatment. Nevertheless, these natural filtration processes can be overwhelmed if contaminants make their way to the groundwater. Years of experience has shown that the best way to protect our drinking water sources is to prevent harmful chemicals from entering the ground in the first place.
Groundwater Guardian is a program of The Groundwater Foundation that provides support and encouragement for communities to implement groundwater awareness activities, motivation to continue these efforts, and recognition for their achievements. SUB has coordinated a local Groundwater Guardian team since 1997, and our members include representatives from local agencies, schools, businesses, and non-profit organizations. The team presents an annual plaque to the Springfield City Council in early March, in recognition of National Groundwater Awareness Week. The Groundwater Guardian team has produced several educational materials, including these signs you may have seen around town.
For more information about the Groundwater Guardian Program, visit the Groundwater Foundation website.
Wellhead Protection Areas
The Wellhead Protection Areas (WHPAs) refer to the ground that lies above the aquifer(s) supplying Springfield’s wells. It is also where the actions we take above-ground can affect the quality of the drinking water sources below-ground. The WHPAs Map (PDF) divides the area into different “time-of-travel” zones. The time-of-travel zones refer to the amount of time it takes for groundwater to move from that zone to the pumping well. For example, within a one-year zone, groundwater is expected to reach a well in less than a year’s time, and in some cases it could take only a few days. In a more distant zone, groundwater may not reach a well for 20 years, or even 99 years.
Contaminants released within the WHPAs can migrate down to the aquifer and travel to a well. The areas within shorter time-of-travel zones are the most sensitive. The best way to protect Springfield’s WHPAs from contamination is through the careful management of hazardous materials and other harmful chemicals. Examples include close monitoring of large chemical storage tanks, use of secondary containment, elimination of chlorinated solvents, proper disposal of commercial and household hazardous waste, prevention of unlawful discharges into the stormwater system, and careful and judicious use of pesticides and fertilizers.
Middle Fork Willamette River
Springfield Utility Board (SUB) pumps directly from the Middle Fork Willamette River to supplement our water supply and to help recharge wells. The river flows from its source in the Cascade Mountains down a steep gradient toward the northwest, connecting the communities of Oakridge, Westfir, Lowell, Dexter, Fall Creek, Jasper, Pleasant Hill, and Springfield. For more information about the watershed, visit the Middle Fork Willamette Watershed Council (MFWWC) website.
SUB participates in projects with the MFWWC and upstream communities to help protect this critical resource. Examples include household hazardous waste roundups, watershed restoration, septic tank maintenance education, and coordination of hazardous material spill response.