Consultant: Pasco needs to find ways to conserve water

By Geoff Folsom, Tri-City HeraldNovember 25, 2013 

Pasco needs to find ways to better conserve water, a consultant told the city council Monday evening.

The city hired Murray Smith and Associates of Spokane to prepare water resources and irrigation plans in May. The city is paying for the $81,465 plan using city water and irrigation funds.

Securing city water rights is needed to deal with Pasco's exploding growth, said Chris Uber, project manager with Murray Smith. Pasco was the third fastest-growing city in Washington last year, and has grown to 65,000 people from 40,000 last year.

The city is already working on getting the rights to more water. City Manager Gary Crutchfield said he has an agreement with the Washington State Department of Ecology to allow the city to access 4,500 more acre-feet a year from the Columbia River, but the agreement has yet to be finalized.

"We'll be out of that deficit when we get confirmation of that," he said.

An acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover an acre of land with a foot of water.

The city also is working to get more homes connected to its irrigation system, instead of using domestic water for lawns, Crutchfield said. New subdivisions are required to use the irrigation system, which taps mainly into wells.

About 10,000 of Pasco's 18,000 water customers still use domestic water to irrigate, Crutchfield said.

The city also can use landscaping that requires less water by changing the type of grass it uses on sports fields and in new developments, Uber said. It can also work on making its water rate structure differentiate between water for irrigation and domestic use.

To make its irrigation system more efficient, Uber said the city should work more closely with the Franklin County Irrigation District. Pipes leading into irrigation wells show signs of clogging, which can end up using more power for pumping.

The council is expected to vote on a final water resources plan in January.

Discussing water issues can be tricky, Councilman Bob Hoffmann said.

"I have to occasionally get it in my head that water is a scarce resource for a city next to a river," he said.

Also Monday:

-- The council considered a dedication deed to name a newly built street St. Francis Lane. The street, near Tri-Cities Prep, will connect St. Thomas Drive and Chapel Hill Boulevard. The city says the street is needed to avoid safety conflicts on Broadmoor Boulevard for people going to and from the school. The council can now officially name the street through an ordinance.

-- The council agreed on three questions to appear on the National Citizens Survey, which is sent to Pasco residents every two years. One questions asks if residents of the unincorporated "doughnut hole" should pay the same monthly ambulance fee ($6.25) as city residents, if the city contracts with Franklin Fire District 3 to provide ambulance services.

Another question came in the wake of last summer's failed regional vote to build an aquatics center. Though the facility failed across the Tri-Cities, it got the majority of the votes in Pasco. The question asks if Pasco should continue to work with the Regional Public Facilities District on a large-scale project, have the city seek out its own smaller project or abandon efforts on future projects.

The final question asks if the city's senior center, which has seen declining use, should be turned into a community recreation center.

-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543

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