These past few months have been the driest in history, Tacoma Water announced last week, and there is little sign of much rain in the near future.
In response to this news, Bonney Lake is encouraging all residents to reduce their water usage for the remainder of the year, especially residents using irrigation meters.
“We are not declaring an emergency, we are not saying don’t water,” said Dan Grigsby, public works director in Bonney Lake. “We are asking people to use reasonable precaution and conserve water where it makes sense.”
Bonney Lake is required by their agreement with Tacoma Water to follow their lead when they announce any sort of conservation action because Bonney Lake routinely buys from Tacoma Water during the summer months to level out peak water usage. This gives local springs and well a chance to recover for use during the winter months, when Bonney Lake can rely on it’s own water sources.
However, Bonney Lake, like other cities that buy from Tacoma Water, has purchased more water this summer than normal, which has put a strain on Tacoma Water’s systems as they try to save water for other uses, like in-stream flow for salmon and other fish.
One reason Bonney Lake is using more water from an outside source is one of the city’s wells had equipment problems and couldn’t supply water. Grigsby said the well was fixed earlier this month, which helped reduce the amount of water the city buys from Tacoma Water.
Irrigation meter users and city consumption
Grigsby said these voluntary water conservation actions will affect residents who use water irrigation meters the most, because their impact on water usage is much higher than other city residents.
The city is asking all commercial customers, home owner associations, schools, multi-family residential buildings and anyone else using a irrigation meter to reduce the water they use to water lawns by 50 percent. This may require home owners associations to waive any green lawn or driveway washing requirements until further notice from the city.
The city also asks all irrigation to be limited to non-peak hours, between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.
Bonney Lake will be reducing its irrigation use as well, limiting any grass watering to recreational playing fields like baseball fields.
“If you have heavy use on a dry field, it can actually damage the grass, whereas if you’re just irrigating a lawn around a building that is not used for recreation, it does not hurt it to turn brown,” Grigsby said. “It’ll turn green when it rains again.”
Stage 3 – mandatory conservation
Voluntary water conservation is stage two in a four-stage water conservation plan outlined by Tacoma Water.
Water conservation advisory is stage one.
Stage three is mandatory water conservation, which becomes active when water sources and voluntary demand reductions are not expected to be enough to support projected water demands.
Grigsby said the chances of Tacoma Water asking for mandatory conservation are “pretty low, but you have to keep assessing your situation. The wells and springs are OK now, but if the drought is prolonged, how will these wells and springs be impacted? We really don’t know.”
Stage 4 is emergency water conservation, often as a result of a major catastrophic event or an extended period of drought.