YAKIMA -- One faucet or shutoff valve at a time, Yakima's irrigation workers are hurrying across the city as they prepare to fully pressurize the system that keeps the grass green and the flowers watered.
The crew of seven started turning on the almost 66 separate irrigation systems managed by the city April 2. By later this month, all of the systems should be flowing at full pressure.
It's a yearly exercise that has been going on since 1912, when the first irrigation system was constructed. And each year, the crew has to repeat the same fast-paced work of running from leak to leak to determine the problem.
"They're all over town," said Dave Brown, the city's water and irrigation manager.
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That makes it a pretty normal start to the season.
Most of the incidents that the crew deals with involve outside faucets left open during the winter or perhaps pipes that froze and broke.
Workers will turn off the faucets or close the residential shutoff valve, then move on to the next address.
The city provides irrigation water to about 11,000 customers who represent about two-thirds of the 91,000 residents. Not everyone has access to irrigation water; some residents are served by private irrigation systems or use domestic water.
The water is delivered through about 150 miles of pipe. During the past decade, the city has replaced about 39 miles of the system with plastic pipe. Only a small fraction of the system still relies on older wood stave pipe. Most is metal or concrete and is still in good condition.
During the rest of the year, the irrigation workers perform maintenance and respond to emergencies. But right now, it's leak patrol.