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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Tuesday, June 2, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Water tab merits a few lashes with a dry noodle

I was brought up to be exceedingly stingy with water.

I was raised in the arid West, where a brown trickle of water was styled “the South Platte River.” Water was rationed; neighbors turned in neighbors for gross sprinkling violations.

And that’s why I was absolutely appalled to see the following number this week on my city of Spokane water bill: 42,636 gallons.

Are you kidding me? How in hell could I have used 42,636 gallons of water during one billing cycle? Me, a guy who turns off the faucet while brushing?

Yet there it was, the cold, wet facts, taken right off of my water meter.

Then I began to add up all of the ways we use water at our house. There’s the dishwasher, the washing machine and the shower. There’s the hose for spraying the skunk smell off the dog.

Not to mention the 12 ounces I use while brushing my teeth.

But then, of course, I had to come to terms with the real culprit: My Big Fat Green Lawn.

Actually, it’s not that fat and it’s not that green. It is, in fact, a light khaki brown right now because, as my wife will tell you, I’m stingy with the watering.

But it is definitely “big.” We have a double lot – a giant backyard. This big lot should prove to be a key selling point if we ever put the house on the market, assuming the buyer is like me and fails to think through the implications.

The implications being: That’s gonna be twice as much to mow. And twice as much to water.

Resulting in a bill for 42,636 gallons of water for two months.

Frankly, this is probably no larger than my previous midsummer bills. However, the city of Spokane used to list water usage only in “units” of 100 cubic feet. Hey, 57 units of water. That doesn’t sound like much.

But now, the city lists it in gallons, a clever ploy to alarm homeowners such as myself about their profligate ways. I called up a friendly fellow at the city’s water department and tried to get him to tell me whether I’m really a massive water hog. First, he tactfully told me that no, they have plenty of residential customers who go way over 42,636 gallons per billing. After all, my bill for water consumption was only $38.95, which doesn’t sound that bad. But then, after a little prodding, he conceded that yes, I’m “a little on the high side.”

In fact, 42,636 gallons would fill up two decent-size backyard swimming pools.

What can I do about this, other than (1) letting my lawn revert to sagebrush, (2) showering with friends or (3) hiring a rainmaker?

Well, the city does have a program called Get More Green for Less Green, in which the city will pay me $100 to take 1,000 square feet of my lawn and turn it into rocks or gravel or a cactus farm or something else that needs no watering. So maybe that should be our summer project.

Mostly, though, we’ll just have to try to be as stingy as possible with our watering. That, and cut back on dog-washing. Let’s just pray the dog doesn’t get skunked.

Reach Jim Kershner at or (509) 459-5493. Reach Jim Kershner at or (509) 459-5493.

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