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Despite the possible influx of 50,000 or so visitors to Baker County for the Aug. 21 solar eclipse, Baker City officials don’t expect any problems with the city’s water or sewer systems.
The city supplies as much as 7 million gallons of water per day during peak demand on hot summer days.
Michelle Owen, the city’s public works director, said she doesn’t expect demand to be significantly higher during the several days when visitors will be in the area for the eclipse.
There have been other summer events, such as the Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally and Miners Jubilee, that filled the city’s lodging establishments, Owen said, and the city was able to meet the demand then.
Many of the eclipse visitors will be staying outside the city and thus not taxing the city’s utilities.
“The city has been able to meet the demands for water during other events in town when all hotel rooms and RV parks are full,” Owen wrote in an email to the Herald.
Doug Schwin, the city’s engineer, also pointed out that the biggest reason water use peaks in the summer is that people are watering their lawns and gardens — something eclipse viewers won’t be doing.
“Everything else you see in the summer is — for the most part — all irrigation,” Schwin said. “The irrigation isn’t going to climb just because people are here temporarily.”
The city gets most of its water from 12 springs and streams in its 10,000-acre forested watershed on the east slopes of the Elkhorn Mountains about 10 miles west of town.
Those sources can supply up to 6 million gallons per day.
The city supplements the watershed with two sources: Goodrich Reservoir, also in the Elkhorns, and a well.
Goodrich, which is full, holds 200 million gallons of water.
The city has a state permit to divert up to 200 million gallons from the watershed into the well during the winter and spring, when water use in town is relatively low.
The city will use either or both those sources to meet increased water demand during the eclipse.
See more in the July 26, 2017, issue of the Baker City Herald.