Big Butte Springs bubble forth about 30 miles from Medford, in the shadow of Mount McLoughlin. - <I>-Photo by Nancy McClain</I>

'The legend of the sparkling water'

For a charming and historic look at the history of Medford's drinking water, read "The Legend of the Sparkling Water."

The 16-page collaboration between the Medford Water Commission, the city of Medford and citizens — printed in 1927 and reprinted in 1999 — outlines the origins of the Big Butte Springs water supply, from the formation of the city's first water commission in 1919 to the tapping of the pipeline on July 1, 1927.

With photographs, drawings and public relations gems such as, "The permanent purity of Big Butte Springs is beyond possible suspicion," the book gives readers an understanding of how Medford residents reveled in their new water supply way back when, says Laura Hodnett, MWD public information coordinator.

"It's a great little read," she says. "There's so many neat things in it."

Consider the Foreword, which starts, "Down through the annals of history no single factor has played a greater part in the progress and development of any city than the purity and stability of its water supply." The writer, O.A. Bright, reflects on the piped water in ancient Carthage and the aqueducts of Rome before segueing into the selection of Big Butte Springs as the city's main water source. "The completion of the new municipal water system places Medford in an enviable position among the cities of the world because of the purity, coolness and excellent quality of its water and the high standards" of transporting water to consumers.

Bright rejoices in the "wonderful mountain spring now in every home. The public drinking fountains throughout the city carry this message to the world."

The Fish Lake Water system, the city's water supply as of Dec. 5, 1908, became inadequate because of Medford's surging growth, and the book contains a photo of a two-story house fronted by a scruffy looking lawn, with the caption, "Dried up lawns were the rule rather than the exception" before Big Butte Springs.

There is even a chemical analysis from the 1920s, shown below an old photo of the gurgling springs, highlighting levels of silica, iron and aluminum oxides, magnesium sulphate and other chemicals.

Bright calls the water "temptingly cool," noting that the temperature at the springs is 43 degrees, 47 degrees at the city reservoir and 52 degrees at the city fountain.

The writer concludes with, "The City of Medford now has a water supply unsurpassed by any city, and will be a determining factor in its future growth, health and prosperity."

For more information on the book, call the Medford Water Commission's public information line at 774-2436.

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