Is it OK to water your lawn this summer, amid Washington’s drought?
As summer approaches with most of Washington state experiencing drought conditions, the Seattle area will likely weather the season just fine.
“After experiencing a below-average snowpack this winter and very little rain in March, Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) started refilling its mountain reservoirs earlier than normal,” said Sabrina Register with Seattle Public Utilities. “This operation resulted in a combined reservoir water storage that is above normal for this time of the year, helping to offset the challenging weather conditions.”
Seattle Public Utilities not only manages water for the city, it also provides water service for about two dozen other neighboring communities in King County. In short, despite drought concerns elsewhere in Washington state, residents in the Puget Sound region should be able to water their lawns this summer. And sorry kids, you’re still going to have to take that shower.
“Based on current conditions and forecasts, Seattle anticipates its regional water system will have sufficient water supply for people and fish this summer,” Register said. “SPU has an ongoing water conservation program and always encourages customers to use water wisely.”
Register says that the utility does not expect to ask customers to reduce water use this season.
As a side note: Cliff Mass, Atmospheric Sciences professor at the University of Washington, said in his blog that the state’s drought situation “is less dire than advertised.” In fact, the “forecast is for a wetter than normal summer,” according to Mass.
Washington drought and Puget Sound
In April, Washington Governor Jay Inslee declared a drought emergency in the Methow, Okanogan, and Upper Yakima basins. Last week, the governor expanded that emergency to 24 more basins. They span Western, Central, and Eastern Washington. It means that those regions are already experiencing low water supply, with warmer and drier conditions expected in the coming months.
This comes after much of the state experienced low mountain snow levels over the winter. That snow is depended upon in the summer as it melts and feeds reservoirs. The warm spring has already melted much of the snow that did fall. The Associated Press reports that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service says every water basin in the state is below the 30-year median for snowpack.
But a considerable portion of Western Washington — around the Puget Sound — is not part of the drought concerns, such as Seattle, Tacoma, and Everett. These areas are not included in the state’s drought declaration.
Register says that the Seattle utility — which serves a considerable portion of areas outside Seattle — looked ahead this season and adjusted its water supply accordingly.
“SPU continuously analyzes its water supply – monitoring water storage in our reservoirs, the inflows into the reservoirs from precipitation and melting snow, customer use, and water released from our dams to benefit fish,” she said. “We also monitor the near-term and long-term weather forecasts and plan for potential impacts on our water supply. We do this on a daily basis.”
Still, if you like the idea of conserving water and keeping your plants lush and your lawn green, there are smart ways to do both.
Watering your lawn and plants
Water less frequently but for longer. This will send the roots further down. Shallow root systems dry out quickly.
Inspect your irrigation systems for leaks, disconnections, and sprinkler heads pointed in the wrong direction. Use soaker hoses and drip systems. Set timers to avoid excess evaporation (avoid middle of the day watering). Collect rain water in barrels. Mulch around plants to retain moisture. Don’t cut the grass so short and leave clippings on the lawn.