Kara Odegard, Manager or Sustainability Initiatives, 509.828.3507
Friday, June 24, 2022 at 8:33 a.m.
While water is precious and finite, Spokane residents currently use more of it than 97% of the rest of the country. The goal of the recently adopted water conservation and drought response ordinance is to protect one of the region’s most invaluable resources, our water. The ordinance consists of 2 parts: water conservation and drought response.
The water conservation portion of the ordinance goes into effect each summer from June-September and applies to every water customer, residential & commercial. It requires that Spokane residents and businesses limit outdoor watering to every other day and refrains from watering between the hours of 10 am and 6 pm (peak evaporation time).
The drought response portion of this ordinance will only go into effect when the City officially calls a drought via Resolution based on real-time river flows. During a declared drought, outdoor irrigation is limited to 2 days per week and for a total of 2 hours total each day you water. Using water for hardscape cleaning is prohibited during drought times.
The ordinance allows exemptions for trees, newly planted landscapes, and vegetable gardens.
Any enforcement of these new conservation measures is delayed for at least two summers, and there are no financial consequences for non-compliance until after this initial period. Over the next two years, there will be continued efforts to educate, inform, and engage with the community around water conservation.
In Spokane, our summertime water use increases by 4 to 6 times over our winter average. Nearly all our increased water use during summer is for landscaping. Much of that increased water use (up to 50%) can be attributed to waste – sprinklers over spraying into the streets and sidewalks, for example. The City and its residents can reduce this water waste and avoid costly infrastructure upgrades by taking action now to decrease outdoor water usage.
The Spokane River is hydrologically connected to the Spokane Valley Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer, where we source our water for human consumption. The aquifer is one of two primary sources of water into the river. During the summer, our river flows at its lowest level, and the aquifer refresh is critical to a healthy river habitat. Our use of this aquifer water during the summer impacts the amount of refresh the aquifer can provide to the river. This new policy is simply asking Spokane residents to consider their impact on the river during the summer low-flow season.
For more information on the relationship between our river and the aquifer, watch John Covert’s presentation at the Healthy River, Heathy Spokane forum in 2018.
The City of Spokane is not the first to ask its residents to restrict their outdoor water use. Post Falls, Airway Heights, Cheney, and Medical Lake have laws limiting water use during summer and additional measures during drought years.
The City of Spokane is designing informational workshops to assist in education on resources and tools people can utilize. This includes rebates on water-efficient equipment upgrades, the SpokaneScape lawn replacement program, water-saving contests and challenges, as well as many helpful conservation tips and tricks for your home and garden. More information on these programs and rebates can be found on the Spokane Water Wise website.