Most questions Kennewick Irrigation District employees are hearing in the first week of mandatory water restrictions concern sprinklers, officials said at a Tuesday meeting.
Homeowners have two days each week — determined by their addresses — 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.
Many, however, have sprinkler systems that can’t be programmed to water at different times on different days.
Manager Chuck Freeman said the district tried an even and odd day watering schedule in the 2005 drought, but it failed to distribute demand. Canals were drained and took days to refill. Equipment broke down and many customers were unable to access water.
Six out of the 10 ending digits on addresses had to be split with an AM and a PM shift because of the sheer number of accounts, Freeman said. Putting all customers on a midnight-to-noon shift or a noon-to-midnight shift would have created too much water demand at the same time.
“We are in an emergency situation in the drought,” he said.
Sherry Blondheim of Kennewick said she knows KID is trying to do the best to be fair and equitable, but there will be situations that won’t be equitable.
“Sometimes equitable is sharing the pain,” said Brian Iller, the district’s attorney.
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.
While all customers will use less water, Tri-City residents should expect to see large users like schools, parks and apartment complexes water during off-peak times, officials said.
Urban customers with more than 3 acres will not be on the mandatory schedule because covering that many acres in a 12-hour period would place too much demand on the canal system, said Jason McShane, engineering and operations manager.
McShane appreciates the willingness of those large water users to water during off-peak hours to help even out water use and availability for all customers, he said.
The watering restrictions became mandatory Sunday in response to the Yakima Basin drought.
KID customer Joani Cegelske of Kennewick said it’s strange to not have enough water when the area has three different rivers. She asked why the district doesn’t have Columbia River water rights or hasn’t found another way to make more water available during Yakima Basin drought years.
The district’s application for Columbia River water rights has been languishing in the courts for two decades, Freeman said. The electrification of the Chandler pumping station has been approved by federal legislation for 21 years but not funded.
The federal Bureau of Reclamation, which owns and operates the Chandler pump station, recently agreed to take another look at the electrification project.
The bureau has to pull out 1.25 buckets of water for every bucket of water delivered to the irrigation district to power the hydraulic pumps. Adding electrical pumps to be used in a drought year could solve KID’s water woes and leave more water for fish in a critical stretch of the river, officials say. The bureau would be responsible for paying the electrical bill and the construction cost.
KID has done a number of projects during the past decade, including lining miles of canals, to conserve water. Those projects are expected to help the district’s customers better survive this year’s drought.
The district will use the newly built Cherry Creek reservoir for a small amount of temporary storage to help better manage the drought, since the reservoir holds less than 10 acre-feet of water. The $1.3 million reservoir is meant to improve service for about 1,500 connections in southeast Kennewick, in the area from about 27th Avenue south to 45th Avenue.
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.
The Bureau of Reclamation’s Monday forecast was the first this year where the estimate of available water did not drop. Some Yakima River water users are expected to get about 44 percent of their normal water, although KID expects to receive more because the district lives off of return flows.
The irrigation district’s board of directors approved the mandatory, enforced schedule in May after water supply expectations for Yakima River water users dropped again.
Officials anticipate water supplies will reach at least 2005 drought levels, when the district was able to deliver about 68 percent of its normal water.
Other irrigation districts get to request a release of reservoir water for their use, McShane said. That’s why Roza Irrigation District was able to shut down for three weeks and save water for later in the year.
But because KID’s water is from return flows — water returned to the Yakima by users upstream — the irrigation district can’t call on reservoir water, he said. There will be less water in July and August when the weather is warmest.
The projected hole KID looks to fill is about five times as much as the city of Kennewick’s peak water delivery.
McShane is concerned some of the district’s large agricultural customers may not have access to enough water in July to run their irrigation systems, he said.
Anyone who is planning to plant a new lawn should wait until September or October when the water supply may be better, McShane said.
For the mandatory schedule or for more information, go to kid.org.