Our Voice: Watering rules needed to address drought

The warmest temperatures so far this year are expected this weekend.

And while a good dose of sunshine and warm weather seems to do wonders for most of us, Kennewick Irrigation District customers who love a lush, green lawn are about to embark on a challenging summer.

This is the last weekend they’ll get to water their lawns as they wish. We are about to see the first drought here in a decade.

KID customers already had been encouraged to cut down on water use, but enforcement of a rotating watering schedule begins May 31. The schedule is based on the last digit of your address and is available at http://kid.org. KID customers will be able to water each zone of their lawn twice a week for 30 minutes.

Customers who ignore the prescribed schedule will face fines and even have their irrigation shut off for the season or be prosecuted if they continue to break the rules.

It’s hard for officials to predict just how bad the drought will be, but it is expected to become apparent soon. And KID staff know that the watering plan they used in the last drought was fraught with problems and depleted the water supply. So with much study and analysis, they came up with a schedule that they hope will allow everyone to maintain some irrigation this summer.

Agricultural customers, which KID says totals 250, will be required to submit a water plan. Entities that maintain large grassy areas like parks, schools and churches will be asked to water during off-peak times. Don’t think turning to your potable water source — the city — will help. Kennewick does not have nearly enough water to irrigate lawns and gardens.

Besides the lack of snow pack in the mountains, one of the more odd reasons KID is faced with water shortages is the result of conservation efforts by irrigation districts upriver. Better conservation practices mean they are holding onto more of the water that used to be returned to the Yakima River and available to KID.

If conditions worsen, so will restrictions on water use. KID’s goal is to keep lawns alive, but don’t expect them to be green.

And it is only a short-term solution. KID needs to modernize its system with what they call electrification. Basically, turning the hydro-driven water pumps into electric ones to provide a much more efficient distribution system. Right now, it takes 1.25 buckets of water to pump one bucket of water into the system.

The price tag is $30 million to $60 million and in the world of water projects, that is a drop in the bucket. If the federal government doesn’t make electrification a priority, big problems await. If KID exerted its right to water, it could impact support for the massive $4 billion water storage plan under negotiation upriver.

Like it or not, everyone needs to do their part to conserve water this summer.