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Yard watering guidelines recommended to curb excessive usage, strain on Grangeville system

Lawn watering at the Idaho County Courthouse.

Photo by David Rauzi
Lawn watering at the Idaho County Courthouse.

— Water, water everywhere … and that’s a problem for Grangeville Public Works.

Excessive water use is a strain on the municipal water system during this time of year, and the city is encouraging residents to adopt more efficient use for lawn irrigation.

“If they can follow yard watering guidelines, they can still have green lawns and also save money on their water bills,” said Eric Jones, public works maintenance lead.

It can also prevent strains on infrastructure – pumps and streets – and reduce the need for a new well and related systems that with them bring additional costs to rate payers.

Jones explained water flow into the aquifer drops off in mid-July through September as mountain runoff is gone and the fall rains have yet to start. Correspondingly, water usage increases for yard and garden watering. As a result, city wells take longer to recharge.

“If it gets too far down, it will try to pump air into the system,” he said, which can cause issues for equipment. The city has five wells spread across town, and to compensate for drawdowns, these can be put on a rotation of use and rest. But even with this, he continued, this will run wells longer that puts more hours on pumps and consumes more electricity.

City crews often witness water running down streets and gutters from sprinklers left on for extended periods of time, whether by purpose or forgotten. Standing water can cause problems for asphalt, which is not designed for extended periods of pooling, resulting in it weakening and then breaking apart.

If excessive water consumption continues to be an issue, Jones said, the city may have to consider an ordinance for alternative watering days and/or perhaps drilling a new well to meet demand.

“And that would be a large cost,” he said, in both the drilling as well as the infrastructure additions to connect it into the city water system.

“We haven’t come to that yet,” Jones said, for the need for a new well and regulations, and the city is encouraging users – as well as looking at its own usage for municipal needs such as parks – to change and monitor its watering habits.

Figures provided by the city show water usage can jump significantly as the weather warms.

From November 2015 to February 2016, users consumed 36,548,597 gallons; and from May to August 2016, total usage was 68,234,979 gallons: an 87 percent increase. Jones clarified this year has some additional usage due to construction projects at the Idaho County Airport and the Main Street/State Highway 13 project. For the same periods a year prior (November 2014 to February 2015, compared with May to August 2015), a significant drought year for the county overall, the usage increased more than 52 million gallons (up by 148 percent).

A two-page city document on recommendations to improve yard water use is with this story online at , and it is also available on the city website: .

A summary of some key points is as follows:

  • To combat evaporation, water lawns between 4 to 10 a.m. when natural humidity is high, cooler temperatures and there is less wind. Also, taller grass shades the soil, allowing water to reach deeper and reducing evaporation.
  • Use a timer to maintain a constant watering schedule and prevent overwatering from forgetting to turn off the sprinkler.
  • Fewer waterings encourage roots to grow deeper. Water every four to eight days.


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