The warm weather forecast this week is a good reminder that we all need to be conscientious of our water use.
We know — everything is in full spring bloom now, irrigation water is flowing and the grass is green. No worries, right?
You should use only the water you really need. We get spoiled because we are surrounded by rivers and most times have ample water for our residential irrigation needs.
But Kennewick Irrigation District customers will well remember the rationing what went on last summer because of a lack of water available to that system. Once lush lawns turned brown and KID patrolled to make sure customers weren’t violating the rationing schedule.
Those among us on other systems with different water rights and supplies generally fared better and were able to keep things green through the summer.
But none of us should abuse the privilege of irrigation water. Learn what your lawn really needs — many of us tend to over-water. Install more efficient delivery systems and use a timer to manage your sprinklers and drip systems.
In 2015, our state had what is classified as a “snowpack drought.” Warmer than normal temperatures meant that precipitation in the mountains that would have normally fallen as snow, fell as rain, instead.
While overall precipitation was about normal, snowfall was not. With not enough snow to melt and create the needed amount of water in the spring and summer, the drought was on. Then lower than average spring rain and higher than average temperatures pushed us into a classic drought, damaging crops and wild species, according to the state Department of Ecology.
The resulting economic impact of the drought on agriculture alone is estimated at $335 million, according to the state agency.
We cannot afford those kind of losses in a region where agriculture is king when it comes to our economy. Agriculture must take priority when it comes to irrigation, and we all need to do our part.
The original intent of irrigation here was to make more land farm-able, increasing the acres that could be in production and increasing yields. Lawns are not production agriculture. If you go to many other desert climates with our typical annual precipitation, you don’t see many green lawns. You see landscaping that takes into account the lack of water and its use designated for other critical purposes. You see xeriscaping and plants that need little water to flourish.
While runoff is estimated at normal or above for 2016, snow is melting quickly because of the warmer temperatures in the mountains for this time of year.
And just because the water forecast looks good now, that isn’t a green light to be wasteful when it comes to water. We ask that you be mindful of your water use even in times of seeming abundance and educate yourself on ways you can conserve. Farmers already do both.