The first good news in months for water managers and irrigators in the Yakima Basin won’t affect watering schedules or other restrictions on customers of the Kennewick Irrigation District.
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation officials announced Wednesday that they were revising the water supply available to junior water rights holders to 46 percent.
That’s up 2 percentage points from what was estimated in early July and the first time the water supply has increased this season.
That’s good news for water users further upstream the Yakima, with the Roza Irrigation District possibly being able to stretch water supplies to a few days in October. But for KID, which depends on return flows in the river, there won’t be any notable change to operations.
“We would need a change of conditions in the river,” said Seth Defoe, KID’s planning manager.
Reclamation’s new estimate comes from higher-than-anticipated water levels in the basin’s reservoirs and the forecast of some cooler and possibly wetter conditions in the region.
“This is tremendous news, as far as you can say something is tremendous in a terrible year like this,” Urban Eberhart, manager of the Kittitas Reclamation District, told the Yakima Herald-Republic. “Every day is extremely important.”
The district, which serves 60,000 acres in the Kittitas Valley with junior water rights, planned to run out of water July 30, but the extra amount will cover another week of delivery, Eberhart said.
Scott Revell, Roza’s district manager, said the weather will heat up again and that must be taken into account, but the region is far enough into the current irrigation season that projections can be made more accurately.
Those projections show that while this is a bad year for irrigators, it likely won’t be as bad as the 2005 drought, when water supplies for the Yakima were closer to 37 percent.
KID customers did get good news earlier this week, when district officials increased residential watering times to 30 minutes per scheduled day as well as allowing spot watering of distressed portions of lawns for up to 30 minutes per day. Those changes also were brought about by cooler temperatures and a subsequent drop in water demand.