Our Voice: KID customers should prepare for limited water

Drought conditions are expected for Kennewick Irrigation District customers this summer and the only way the community will bear it is if everyone follows the rules.

Already, Richland and Kennewick city officials are warning residents they cannot use city water to keep their lawns green. Neither city has the capacity to provide enough water for drinking and fire emergencies if people also pour it on their lawns.

More than 16,200 KID customers are within the city of Kennewick’s boundaries and more than 4,100 are in Richland. That includes farms and homes.

The low snowpack in the Cascades means that irrigation districts relying on the Yakima River may receive about 73 percent of their normal water, according to a recent estimate by the federal Bureau of Reclamation.

Gov. Jay Inslee has declared a drought emergency for the Yakima Basin and Walla Walla, and although the severity remains to be seen, now is a good time for people to prepare their lawns for an exceptionally dry summer.

KID canals start filling Wednesday and most customers should have their water by April 15. Using water efficiently is always smart, but in times of a potentially reduced water supply, it is critical.

KID suggests customers water less frequently and for longer in order to prepare lawn root systems for drought-like conditions. Seth DeFoe, the district’s planning manager, said frequent light watering can make the roots get lazy. If customers water, for example, twice a week for 20 or 30 minutes, the roots are trained to dig deeper in the ground for water.

It also helps to set the mower to the highest recommended setting for your lawn. A longer grass blade allows for more photosynthesis, which leads to healthier grass.

And KID says neighbors should work together and avoid watering their lawns at the same time. That way there is enough water pressure to go around.

But even with all these precautions, there is still a chance lawns will struggle once the summer heat hits. People will have to be understanding.

They may end up a bit jealous as well, since some areas in the community will be spared the concern over a limited water supply.

Columbia Irrigation District customers should have plenty of water as their system draws from the Columbia River. It relies on the snowpack in Canada, which was in good shape this winter and should provide enough melting snow to meet water demands.

But KID customers who may see their water supply diminish should start conserving early. Manage your watering system wisely and talk to your neighbors. Working together is the key to getting through a low water year.