Kennewick Irrigation District’s mandatory watering schedule goes into effect today.
And as long as the community works with the schedule, KID officials expect to be able to provide enough water to keep grass alive, if not gorgeous.
KID is trying to balance demand so lawns can better survive the Yakima Basin drought. Shortages could arrive soon.
Yakima River flows at the Prosser Dam where KID’s water is diverted were good earlier this week, said Jason McShane, KID’s engineering and operations manager.
But the flows can substantially vary day to day, and KID can only divert water above a federally set minimum level.
“The intent of the schedule is to make sure people have water when we say they will have water,” McShane said.
The projected hole KID looks to fill is about five times as much as the city of Kennewick’s peak water delivery, said Chuck Freeman, KID’s manager.
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, when the district was able to deliver about 68 percent of its normal water.
KID officials have been working with customers to try to make the mandatory schedule work as intended, McShane said.
“We are just trying to reduce demand and continue to have grass stay alive,” he said.
KID does plan to use the newly built Cherry Creek reservoir for a small amount of temporary storage to help better manage the drought, but it isn’t enough to eliminate the need for the mandatory schedule. The reservoir could be used as soon as the next few days.
The $1.3 million reservoir is meant to improve service for about 1,500 service connections in southeast Kennewick, in the area from about 27th Avenue south to 45th Avenue.
But the reservoir, which is under 10 acre-feet of water, will help fill in the gaps of water availability during the drought. When there is extra water, it will be pumped into the reservoir to be stored. When water levels are low, temporary pumps will return the water to the canal, McShane said.
With the schedule, homeowners have two days each week when they can water any time during a 12-hour period. They may water up to 30 minutes in each portion of their yard, whether by zone, sprinkler or station.
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.
The irrigation district’s board of directors approved the mandatory, enforced schedule earlier this month 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 all customers get an equal share of the available water, officials said.
KID tried an even and odd address schedule in the 2005 drought, but then about 11,000 customers would be watering around the same time, Freeman said. The twice-a-week schedule is meant to balance use so KID can continue to provide water and avoid blackouts.
Freeman said KID has seen a lower demand for water this year than the district saw in 2005.
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 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
KID has been working with larger urban customers like the Kennewick School District, the city of Kennewick, cemeteries, apartment complexes and churches to get them to water during off-peak hours, McShane said. Officials are appreciative of how willing the school district and others have been to work with KID to better handle the drought.
Customers shouldn’t expect a reduction in their bills, officials have 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.
KID likely will hire a temporary code enforcement officer to help enforce the schedule. The KID board of directors is expected to review a job description for the position Tuesday. McShane said they will be looking for someone with code enforcement experience.
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 means 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 forward the case to the county prosecutor for tampering with a public facility.
The cases can be appealed during the annual Board of Equalization, and anyone who has 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 it work, McShane said.
The city of Kennewick does not have the capacity for KID customers to use city water to irrigate their lawns. Richland residents who have irrigation water are not allowed to use city water on their lawns during a drought, according to city code.
While the mandatory schedule applies to urban customers, agricultural customers also are seeing their water reduced, McShane said.
KID staff is working with area farmers to balance out the use to meet demand, McShane said. There are fewer than 250 deliveries for agricultural customers, which is easier to manage individually than the vast number of residential accounts.
Red Mountain’s water already is reduced every year, so grape growers will not see less than the 1.5 acre-feet of water per acre at this point. Other KID customers normally get 3.5 acre-feet of water per acre.
The water for Red Mountain comes out of the Yakima River downstream from the main KID point of diversion at the Prosser dam.
And the prorationing of water is better for KID than it would have been without the Red Mountain project, McShane said. The difference in Red Mountain’s allotment and what the rest of KID customers get can be used during a drought year to add to KID’s supply. During non-drought years it is meant to add to in-stream flows.
Gov. Jay Inslee declared a statewide drought emergency earlier this month. 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.