WATER FAQ

photo credit: Jawad Alnajjar

So many questions...

No, but there are protected wetlands on the property. The paths and parking areas were planned to minimize disturbing them.

Oregon’s summers are hot and dry, leading to evaporation. Also, there are water rights to the water in Ford’s Pond. The pump in the southwest corner services the nearby organic farm.

The Oak Hills Golf Resort has an agreement with the city to use the wastewater from the treatment plant (it’s piped directly there). During dry summers, the golf course uses all the water; during wet years, when the golf course has reached storage capacity (and the one other water right to the effluent has been satisfied), the city diverts the water to Ford’s Pond, to store for the summer months.

On November 1, the city can release into Calapooya Creek, which hopefully coincides with the start of rainy season. If it’s a rainy winter, the city must ensure enough water is released from the pond to allow room for the wastewater come May 1, while still ensuring enough is available to serve the water rights on Ford’s Pond. If you have questions on how that is determined, please call the city.

The city purchased Ford’s Pond to ensure it had water storage for the treated wastewater during the summer months, when prohibited from releasing into Calapooya Creek, per the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). The amount of storage space in Ford’s Pond should meet the city’s projected growth over the next 50 years. When the city bought the property in 2014, we weren’t in drought conditions and the golf course didn’t need all the water. Stuff happens…climates change.

In 2020, Sutherlin upgraded its treatment plant to produce Class A wastewater. That’s cleaner than what’s in the pond naturally. The building in the northeast corner of the Ford’s Pond property houses the equipment which removes the residual chlorine from the treatment process, before the wastewater goes into the pond. 

The treatment removes suspended particles (filters), destroys bacteria (chlorine and UV treatment), is tested to confirm standards, and includes redundant treatment and monitoring equipment to prevent inadequately treated recycled water from being used or discharged to public waters. 

Fun Fact: Class A+ is a higher standard which allows further treatment to drinking water. Some U.S. cities are moving in this direction.

Finally, “sewage” is untreated wastewater. Ford’s Pond will not be used for storing sewage. The system won’t allow untreated water to get to the pond.

Municipalities need separate delivery pipes for drinking water and reused water for irrigation. Recycled water used for irrigation is delivered in purple pipes, an international standard. Because the water is Class A, only an informational sign is required. There is no danger to the public.

Yes. Class A allows access to the “nonrestricted recreational impoundment” with signs stating it is reused water and “not safe for drinking.” Class C has regulations including fencing off access and spray irrigation restrictions. The Friends of Ford’s Pond began as a local grassroots effort to convince the city they needed to treat to Class A standards to allow public access to the property, instead of having a fenced-off, weed-covered, wasted property. And the Friends helped the city use the money they spent purchasing the property as required match for the grants to build the park—getting double value from our taxes. We call that a win-win!

Here’s a few examples of parks combining wastewater with recreational access. Some are Class C. Some are in Oregon. One is a major tourism attraction with restaurants (with outdoor seating) lining the walkways.

Santee Lakes, CA 

San Antonio River Walk, TX 

Talking Waters, Albany, OR 

Fernhills Wetlands, Forest Grove OR 

Jacques Marsh, AZ  

Wakodahatchee Wetlands, FL 

Arcata Marsh, CA