Spokane City Council considering ordinance that could restrict when you water your lawn

SPOKANE, Wash. — The Spokane City Council is considering a drought ordinance that would put restrictions on when you can water your yard.

A study done found that every single person uses 202 gallons of water every single day; 97 percent more than the rest of the country. That number increases nearly six-fold in the summer.

The ordinance is being put forward by Councilwoman Lori Kinnear, who says it is necessary to maintain the Spokane River.

“You’re going to pay more money if you’re going to build your infrastructure, that’s just a fact,” she said. “We already know that that’s happening. As we gain population, we’re going to have to conserve.”

If passed, from June to October, outdoor watering can’t happen from 9 am to 6 pm. Alternating days will also be determined, depending on the assigned zone you live in the city. If the Spokane River falls below 1,000 cfs (cubic feet per second), then watering days will be limited to two days a week.

“It impacts the fish and it impacts people who have businesses that rely on the river, so kayaks, and all the water activities that we do,” she said. “That impacts people when the river is so low they can’t operate their business. Remember our river is our economic engine, people come here to see the falls, they come here to see the river, so it’s imperative that we protect the river, as well.”

Those that don’t follow the ordinance will be fined. The amount proposed is $20 for the first violation, and each following violation would be double the amount. Those fines wouldn’t be imposed until 2023.

“That is not a for sure thing right now, we’re just going to focus on this year, go through the education piece, evaluate and see how we do before we implement any kind of fines and any kind of surcharge,” Kinnear said.

There will be exemptions for those with personal/community vegetable gardens, trees, and newly-planted landscape.

Spokane Parks and Recreation uses about 3-4 percent of all water in Spokane and would also be subject to the law.

They will be granted exemptions, but Director Garrett Jones says that while the Parks Dept. supports the ordinance, there are some things that need to be worked out.

“We have roughly 10 systems, that are older to where we would have to water during the day, because of staffing and they’re not automated systems, we wouldn’t be able to meet the requirements of the drought’s ordinance,” Jones said.

Read the full proposal here.