Kennewick Irrigation District customers have been asking quite a few questions after this week’s announcement of mandatory watering restrictions.
They want to understand what they will be able to do to ensure their lawns survive the Yakima Basin drought after the restrictions take effect May 31.
Homeowners will have two days each week where they can water anytime during a 12-hour period. They may water up to 30 minutes in each portion of their yard, whether by zone, sprinkler or station.
That should be enough to keep yards alive, although customers shouldn’t expect them to be lush and green, said Jason McShane, KID’s engineering and operations manager.
Outside of those scheduled days and times, customers can water backyard vegetable gardens or perennials by hand, with high-efficiency drip or micro-spray systems, or with sprinklers attached to hoses, McShane said.
Customers shouldn’t expect a reduction in their bills, McShane said. That money pays for the infrastructure it takes to deliver the water, not the water itself. Trying to manage water during a drought means additional staff time and temporary measures.
“The costs for KID actually go up in a drought in most cases,” he said.
The irrigation district’s board of directors approved the mandatory, enforced schedule Tuesday after water supply expectations for Yakima River water users dropped again.
The mandatory schedule is based on the last digit in a property’s address or house number. The schedule is meant to balance usage so that all customers can get an equal share of the available water, officials said.
Customers should try to avoid watering during peak demand times when possible. Right now, the district sees the most water use between 5:30 and 8 a.m. and 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
KID officials are working with the city of Kennewick and the Kennewick School District on how to handle the drought. The two entities are among the irrigation district’s largest in-town water users.
The city uses KID water to irrigate its parks. The school district irrigates school sports fields.
McShane said KID is appreciative of their willingness to help.
KID has received a few more requests for meetings from homeowner associations to provide tips and information.
This is the first time KID has adopted enforcement along with a mandatory schedule.
The district will warn homeowners who ignore the schedule the first two times. But using water off schedule a third time will cost $100 and result in a locked irrigation valve for seven days. A fourth time will mean another $100 penalty and water locked off for the remainder of the irrigation season.
Tampering with a locked valve and removing the lock will result in a $500 fine that must be paid before any water service will return.
Anyone who removes the lock a second time will have their irrigation service capped for the remainder of the season, and district officials will pass the case to the county prosecutor for tampering with a public facility.
The charges can be appealed during the annual Board of Equalization, and anyone who has their service locked or capped can appeal to KID’s board of directors.
The fines are part of the mandatory schedule because they are a necessary part of making one work, McShane said.
“Our interest is making sure they are equitably getting their water,” he said.
KID expects to receive more water for its customers than the 44 percent of normal supply the federal Bureau of Reclamation estimates because the district benefits from the return flow from other Yakima Basin water users.
Officials anticipate water supplies will reach 2005 drought levels, McShane said. The district was able to deliver about 68 percent of its normal water during 2005.
Shortages are anticipated as soon as June 1. Temperatures are expected to reach the high 80s by the end of next week.
Gov. Jay Inslee declared a statewide drought emergency last week. Water rationing started for some Yakima Basin water users last month, but planning for the impending drought started earlier this year when winter failed to bring the snow needed to supplement the natural river flows during the summer.
For more information and the watering schedule, go to kid.org.