Water Usage




The City of Port Townsend’s rare water system, the Olympic Gravity Water System, or OGWS pipes pristine water from the Olympic Mountains. At a split just outside of town, 12-14 Million gallons per day goes to PT Paper where it is used and thence dumped — along with about 80-130,000 pounds of toxins annually including mercury, ammonia, hydrogen sulfides, organic compounds — at raised temperatures into the eelgrass beds of Port Townsend Bay. Via the other branch, less than 900 thousand gallons per day is needed to serve all other East Jefferson/City of Port Townsend water customers.

Map of OGWS Port Townsend Water System

1956 1983 Water lease PT and Mill Expires March 15, 2020  <<= citizen action needed now!

2013 PT Water Customer Overview

Port Townsend Paper uses 12-14 million gallons of water per day for free!

Versus all other customers, combined usage of less than 900,000 gallons per day.

PTPC supposedly compensates for their free water usage through water system maintenance. That maintenance has a value of about $186,000 per year. Very quick calculations show the value of the City’s gift of free water to PTPC to be well over $4,250,000 per year.

The rest of us, residents and business owners, are expected to pay for the water that we use. Port Townsend Paper should be paying their fair share. The City claimed in 2015 that not continuing to charge a handful of poor customers $50-100/month even when their water was shut off would bankrupt the system (they since backed off from that stance). Yet at the time the City expressed little concern for nearly $100,000 in monthly losses for water that’s given to the mill for free.

The lease terms giving this consideration to the mill were supposed to expire in the early 1950’s but have been repeatedly extended even though the justifications are decreasingly material. The present lease is due to expire on March 15, 2020. 

It is time for PT Paper, which uses more than all of us combined, to step up and pay for the water that they use.

Begin talking with our City Councillors now, and support them in writing a lease that requires PT Paper to pay for their water use, just like any other business in town.

Myths and Truths

Myth: The mill paid for the City’s water system.

Truth: NOT SO! In 1929 (ca.), the City floated a bond for the system. The mill put up the money and was paid back in full over the next 25 or so years.

Myth: The mill maintains the City water system.

Truth: NOT SO! Under contract with the City, the mill is supposed to maintain a certain portion of the system, and even that is limited. Estimated value: $186,000/year. Compare with value of water they don’t pay for, which would be at a commercial rate of about $4.93 per thousand gallons monthly plus commercial base rate.

Myth: The mill owns the water rights.

Truth: No. The City owns the water rights and leases a portion of it to Port Townsend Paper.

Myth: Rights to the water that the mill uses would disappear if the mill were somehow to stop using the water.

Truth: Again, no! Under Washington State water law, municipalities never lose water rights due to lack of use. The City of Port Townsend would retain rights to all of the water that presently flows through the OGWS, including all water that presently goes to Port Townsend Paper.