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H2KNOW and City of Spokane join together to encourage Water Conservation

High water use impacts Spokane River flows

H2KNOW: Our Spokane River is Low and the City of Spokane’s Slow the Flow Program joined together today to strongly encourage people to conserve water during our drought, record-high heat, and a drastically reduced river flow.

“We are pleased to join the City of Spokane in strengthening awareness of aquifer-river relationships and an increased call for water conservation,” said John Roskelley, H2KNOW co-organizer, CELP board member and former Spokane County Commissioner. “During this drought summer, governments, businesses, and people are all pumping high levels of water and this is robbing our river of its water.  Such extremely low river flows have negative impacts on small businesses, fish and wildlife, family recreation, and the overall identity of our community.  ‘Near nature, near perfect’ is more than a slogan, it reflects a deeper relationship with our river.”

Compare the Spokane River at 2500 cubic feet per second (cfs) in the photo on the left, taken July 2014, to 630 cfs in the photo on the right, taken this August from the same spot in Riverside State Park.

Spokane River at 2500 cfs  - Photo by John Osborn, taken at Riverside State Park

Spokane River at 2500 cfs – Photo by John Osborn

Spokane River at 630 cfs - Photo by John Osborn taken at Riverside State Park

Spokane River at 630 cfs – Photo by John Osborn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rick Romero, the City’s Utilities Division Director, said, “Just as the City has taken a strong regional leadership role on improving the water quality in the Spokane River through the development of its Integrated Clean Water Plan and plans for more than $300 million in river investments, we want to enhance our leadership role on water conservation efforts and protecting our river flows.  We are proud that our citizens already are responding positively.  Following record water pumping in June when temperatures were unusually high, our pumping numbers for July are pretty average when looking at the last 25 years of data.  And, today, we ask citizens to continue their work to ‘Slow the Flow.’”

Today’s water conservation message builds on approval by the City Council on August 10th of a request to make the position of Education Coordinator for the City’s Water Department full time.  As noted by Council Member Jon Snyder:

… We have to have a systemic approach that not only addresses consumer use and how people use water but a whole planning and a whole vision for our water future here in the Spokane area.

… I’m also looking forward for chances for this Council to weigh in on the Water Plan and other Water Policy so we can make some good decisions that will last years into the future.  (view statement)

The City and H2KNOW urge Spokane water customers to keep in mind the Spokane River and voluntarily reduce their water use by 10 to 20 percent.  This can be achieved through the following and other simple solutions around the home:

  • Reduce lawn watering to only twice per week. Don’t water on windy days, and turn off your sprinklers when it rains.
  • Water your lawn and garden only at night or in the very early morning; water evaporates in the hot mid-day.
  • Take shorter showers and install a low-flow showerhead.

Many other money-saving, easy actions can be found at the www.H2KNOW.info as well as at the city’s www.waterstewardship.org.

Citizens should also think long-term.  Weather forecasters already are predicting that the Pacific Northwest may have another low-snow winter and long, hot summer in 2016.   Install low-flow toilets, change your landscaping to remove thirsty lawns and install water-efficient native plants.

H2KNOW is a community awareness campaign is supported by the Center for Environmental Law & Policy, Upper Columbia River Group of Sierra Club, and the Columbia Institute for Water Policy.

Follow H2KNOW on Facebook and check out our website.

Follow Spokane’s Slow the Flow campaign.


Water Use at Historic High, Spokane River near Historic Low

Update and correction from the H2KNOW campaign:  the data for this blog post were from the USGS website, and have subsequently been revised upward to flows around 700cfs.  “Provisional Data Subject to Revision” is noted on the river gage website.  Current flows of around 700 are extremely low, while not yet at historic lows. Despite low flows, water use remains high.

H2KNOWriverlow-1

Spokane River flows dropping

 Plea for community to conserve water to help struggling river

Today the H2KNOW community water-conservation campaign sounded the alarm that water levels in the Spokane River dropped below 500 cubic feet per second (cfs) for the first time this summer.   Meanwhile, City of Spokane water use is at an all-time high: 3.8 billion gallons in July, or 122 million gallons of water each day.

“Our Spokane River is in trouble, and we must conserve water,” said John Osborn with the new H2KNOW water conservation campaign. “We must use water wisely to help our struggling river.”

Spokane River at Riverside State Park (from the suspension bridge at Bowl & Pitcher).  River flows were at 630cfs.  photo - John Osborn

Spokane River at Riverside State Park (looking upstream from the suspension bridge at Bowl & Pitcher). On August 8, 2015, river flows were at 630 cfs. photo – John Osborn

Water supply is provided by groundwater from the Spokane-Rathdrum Aquifer. The Aquifer also supplies water to the Spokane River. Increased groundwater pumping for human use directly depletes flow in the River.

Hot temperatures approaching 100 degrees are forecast again for much of this week. Drought combined with excessive water use by the 500,000 people living in this basin are causing historic extremes in low flow for the Spokane River. The lowest flows ever recorded are in the mid-400 cfs range, and we have begun to break the record according to the USGS Spokane River gage. Low flows harm fish, wildlife, recreational opportunities, and businesses that depend on the river.

“Conserve water for the river’s sake,” said Tom Soeldner, a retired Lutheran pastor who co-chair’s Sierra Club’s Upper Columbia River Group. “There is a void in leadership from our government on water conservation during this drought. We as individuals must take responsibility for protecting our Spokane River.”

Five actions that people can take to conserve water and help our Spokane River:

  1. Reduce outdoor watering (especially stop overwatering grass)
  2. Fix broken or clogged pipes and sprinkler heads
  3. Fix leaks in all plumbing fixtures
  4. Install water-efficient devices (such as low flow toilets and shower heads)
  5. Replace your lawn with low-water plants

Comparing flows now with prior years underscores the terrible condition of the river and the need for people to act.   One year ago, in 2014, lowest flows were about 900cfs.   When Spokane was a young city in the 1890s, flows ranged from 1500-2000cfs in August. River flows are monitored at a stream gage near the Monroe Street dam, the oldest continuous gage in Washington State.

During the first week of August, the H2KNOW campaign launched a regional public education effort to help people understand the connection between aquifer and river, and the need to conserve water during this drought summer and beyond.   For more on the water conservation campaign and what people can do, visit www.H2KNOW.info