Summerdrought concerns utility

Published on Thu, May 19, 2005 by eg Olson

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Summer drought concerns utility

By Meg Olson

Chances are good we’ll have a long, hot, dry summer. Blaine and Birch Bay are lucky to get their water from where they do: underground, deep underground.

“The statewide conservation alert is mostly at this point pertaining to snowpack and river based systems. They are already experiencing low flows,” said Birch Bay Water and Sewer District (BBWSD) manager Roger Brown.

In March state governor Christine Gregoire declared a drought state of emergency after the federal National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) reported the state’s snowpack at 26 percent of average. “Most streams in Washington will produce a trickle, not a torrent,” said Scott Pattee, water supply specialist for the NRCS, in April. Water conservation measures are already in place in many of the state’s communities.

Clifford Mass, professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington said their forecasts point to a “warmer than normal summer,” but “in reality there is not much we can say with any skill. Summer does not correlate well with El Nino/La Nina and so we really don’t have any useful tools for summer prediction.”

Blaine’s water supply comes from a string of wells located east of the city, pumping water out of an aquifer buried hundreds of feet underground. Birch Bay purchases most of its water from Blaine, but has two wells of its own. “Our current supply is 100 percent groundwater and groundwater doesn’t respond in the same way to year-long weather patterns,” Brown said.

While the two areas’ water supplies did not face the immediate threat of areas relying on surface water, local water managers weren’t getting complacent. “We’re looking at demand but we’re also watching supply,” Brown said. “So far we’re not seeing a drop in supply.”
However, with demand increasing as we move into summer, Brown said conservation would need to play a part, especially in light of high growth rates in both areas. “We’ve had a lot of growth and we should see demand start to look a little different,” he said.

Blaine has also added a new well, which could add an extra 200 gallons per minute of capacity when it comes into service, but Brown said “that supply may not be available until later this summer.” Representatives from the city of Blaine were not available to confirm the status of the new well.

Brown said his agency meet with Blaine officials twice a month to coordinate their conservation programs, which will include a poster contest on ways to conserve water through the school district. “We’re watching things and we’re asking the public to water wisely,” Brown said.

While no mandatory restrictions to homeowners are anticipated, Brown said by watching how and when they water, they can make a big difference. “We know our big summer peak is outdoor watering, so we’re emphasizing care in outdoor use,” he said. Lawns and most plantings will thrive on only an inch a week, Brown said, and rain gauges are available at district offices. If you’re building your dream home Brown suggests looking for landscaping plants that can handle a dry spell, so you’re prepared for any future drought conditions.
Waterwise gardening tips

All plants need adequate watering to establish a solid root system; the savings in a drought-tolerant plant come once the roots are in place.
A little water stress is a good thing; it will actually strengthen the plant by acclimating it to future drought.

It’s best to water at night or very early in the morning, when temperatures are cooler and evaporation is low.

Too much water is as bad, or worse, than too little water. Don’t provide more water than the soil can absorb.

Placement can be as important as the type of plant. Does the spot gets lots of sunlight, or little? That can dictate what type of plant should go there.

Drip or tickle irrigation wets the soil slowly, not only using less water but maximizing the amount of water that goes to the plant as opposed to running off into the ground well away from the plant’s roots.

Spreading wood chips, or mulch, around plants will help the soil retain its moisture and brings the added benefit of discouraging weeds.
Avoid using grass clippings, rock mulches or peat moss as mulch materials. Grass clippings can mat down and dry, preventing water penetration; rock mulches absorb and radiate heat, drying out plants. Also avoid black plastic around plants, as it blocks water penetration and a proper exchange of air to the plant.

Remove weeds. Weeds are deep rooted and will exhaust deep profile water needed by other plants and grass.
(Courtesy of the Washington State Department of Ecology)