The Kennewick Irrigation District (KID) began its first-ever mandatory, enforced watering schedule in late May. With only 44% of their usual water supply available this summer because of the extreme drought in the Yakima Basin, they recognized the need to be proactive about water use. They were facing severe water shortages unless they took drastic action.
KID set up a split watering schedule, based on the number of acres irrigated. The intent is to distribute the available water in a fair manner among users. KID has over 23,000 customer accounts, primarily residential developments although there is an active agricultural community served as well.
A watering schedule is a big change for KID customers. Getting the word out, as quickly as possible, was essential to making this plan work.
|Automatic timer used with underground|
sprinkler systems by most urban customers.
Public outreach: reach the people who are impactedKID responded with an extensive and broad-based information campaign. “We are taking every opportunity to reach our customers. For example, we are working with two local TV stations and a local radio group of five stations. We are using print media, our website and Facebook pages, information booths at the local farmers market, direct mailings to all customers, a customer service phone line – and that’s not the complete list!” said Jennifer Defoe, KID's Public Relations Coordinator. KID is spending an average of $14,800 per month to purchase media time and space. They take their commitment to conservation and fair distribution very seriously!
KID has partnered with the cities of Richland, West Richland and Kennewick with coordinated messaging regarding water usage in this years’ drought, reminding rate payers not to use city water to supplement their irrigation needs.
Watering schedule changes to reflect changing water availabilityKID’s daily water supply is limited by how much water they are allowed to take from the Yakima River. (This is determined through the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Yakima Project,) Initially, the watering schedule allowed parcels of 3 acres or less to water twice per week, for up to 30 minutes per zone, station or sprinkler. Customers are assigned a time to water, either AM (midnight to noon) or PM (noon to midnight), based on the last digit of their address. For those parcels above 3 acres, project water was restricted to 3.30 gallons per minute per acre.
But as conditions change, so does the schedule. For one particularly dry week in July, residential customers were further restricted to no more than 20 minutes per station/zone. Owners of larger properties were reduced to 3 gallons per minute per acre.
On August 26, a new schedule was posted, reflecting that there was a little more water to go around due to cooler temperatures. Residential customers could now water on three assigned AM or PM blocks, limited to 20 minutes per zone/station.
And news hot off the presses: KID has just announced the removal of all watering restrictions, starting Sept. 20. But KID cautions, this doesn’t mean you can go out and spray all you want. Next year is expected to be another low-water year, and people are encouraged to prepare their yards now for another possible drought. KID stops all service on Oct. 11.
A strategy for successKID manager, Chuck Freeman, confirms that the split schedule has reduced demand. “The expected outcome – which is what we have been experiencing -- is lower peak demands on the water supply. In this way, there is enough water to go around to meet minimal demands for the many water uses we represent: for crops, tree fruit, blueberries, hay, and residential areas with lawns and perennial shrubs and landscape trees. We also serve city parks, cemeteries, churches, green belts, etc… which all are the result of substantial financial commitment by the owners,” said Freeman.
Enforcement actions to be sure people water on schedule
Freeman says they have created an enforcement policy to be sure people are complying with the watering schedule. “To date, [early Sept.] we have issued over 300 warnings and that number will continue to rise throughout this water year,” said Freeman.
Most suspected violation reports are from neighbors who have noticed frequent watering, flooded lawns, or have experienced damage to their property due to a neighbor over-watering. The enforcement schedule can be viewed by clicking on the Drought Watering Schedule link on the front page of the KID website.
KID will continue to invest heavily into conservation measures, including ditch lining, control gates and regulation reservoirs as well as public outreach and education.
On July 20th Ecology received a drought relief application from the KID to cover 50% of the cost of enforcement and education and outreach. Ecology has approved the application. The funding comes from a $16M emergency appropriation by the state legislature.
For more informationFor all things drought, refer to Ecology’s Washington Drought 2015 website.
KID’s website has a wealth of information, both specific and general, on drought-related issues. You can also contact them directly:
Office Hours: Mon-Friday 8:00am - 5:00 pm
12 West Kennewick Avenue
Kennewick, WA 99336