The first week in May is National Drinking Water Week.This is a time to celebrate clean, safe drinking water and appreciate the investments needed to keep water flowing from our taps 24/7.

This year, drinking water customers in Lake Oswego and Tigard should be aware of the investment being made to give them a resilient water supply.Knudson

The upgraded system means that customers are getting one of Oregon’s most resilient water systems — designed to withstand our next major seismic event.

Recent research indicates that there is high probability we will experience a very large earthquake within the next 50 years; it’s not a matter of if, but when. Imagine a magnitude 9 earthquake just offshore of the Oregon Coast. The 2011 earthquake in Japan was a magnitude 9 quake. Most communities in Oregon aren’t prepared for such a disaster.

In 2012, the Oregon Legislature tasked a group of experts to prepare a comprehensive plan to improve Oregon’s earthquake resilience to protect lives and provide rapid recovery following a magnitude 9 earthquake. The resulting Oregon Resilience Plan was presented to the Legislature last year.

Oregon’s water and wastewater systems are especially vulnerable to earthquake damage:

  • Intakes, treatment plants, and pump stations are often located near rivers and lakes where soils are unstable.

  • Existing pipelines are susceptible to rupture during strong ground movement.

  • Water pipelines are subject to failure where they connect to structures such as treatment plants, reservoirs and pump stations as well as to homes and businesses.
  • The Oregon Resilience Plan documents that a major earthquake would have devastating effects on water and wastewater systems throughout western Oregon. Water systems will experience literally thousands of leaks and breaks; many reservoirs and treatment plants would be damaged beyond repair. Communities will be without reliable, safe water supplies. And restoring water service to hospitals, schools, homes and businesses — as well as for firefighting — could take months, threatening public health, public safety and the region’s economy.

    Water systems are large, complex and costly; the cost of seismic mitigation exceeds the resources of most water suppliers. The plan recommends a phased approach to increasing resilience by hardening the “backbone” of water systems over a 50-year time frame. The backbone includes reliable and redundant supply sources as well as upgraded treatment plants, pipelines and reservoirs that are designed to withstand a major event.

    Lake Oswego’s and Tigard’s elected leaders have wisely chosen to invest in one of Oregon’s first water systems that will meet the key objectives to protect lives and enable rapid recovery following an earthquake. When complete, the backbone of their water system will include a new intake on the Clackamas River, an upgraded and expanded filtration plant, upgraded pipelines and a new reservoir — all built to contemporary seismic standards. When this system goes online in 2016, the public health, safety and economic vitality of Lake Oswego and Tigard residents will be protected by one of the most resilient water supply systems in Oregon.

    I encourage citizens to learn more about their water system at: And don’t forget to celebrate Drinking Water Week!

    Mark Knudson, P.E., grew up in Tigard, is CEO of Tualatin Valley Water District based in Beaverton and co-authored the Oregon Resilience Plan for Water and Wastewater Systems.

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