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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

City’s second-hottest July drives highest water use since 2007

Hot weather in July sent Spokane’s water usage soaring to the highest consumption in seven years.

Temperatures topped 90 degrees during 17 days of the month.

Overall, the average temperature was 75.7 degrees, turning July 2014 into the second-hottest July ever recorded in Spokane, according to the National Weather Service. The third-hottest July was in 2007 — when the previous water-usage record was set.

The city pumped 3.780 billion gallons of water last month. In July 2012, the city pumped 3.233 billion gallons. And in 2013, the pumps delivered 3.535 billion gallons, according to city data.

In comparison, the water pumped in January has averaged little over 1 billion gallons the last decade.

The summer increase is largely due to outdoor watering by residents, said Mike Petersen, executive director of The Lands Council.

“Water usage tends to mirror the weather,” Petersen said. “What it really tells me is that we need to continue to find ways to give incentives to people to have drought-resistant plants.” Native plants like the ponderosa pine tend to be drought-tolerant, he said.

Lloyd Brewer, the city’s environmental programs manager, said higher water usage can turn the Spokane River into a hostile environment for fish.

“Water usage is obviously a concern when we’re using it in the summer, in the sense that we’re taking water that might otherwise flow from the aquifer to the river,” Brewer said. Water temperature increases in the river when the flow from the aquifer is reduced, and could reach levels that are too warm for rainbow trout and whitefish.

He urged people to not use any more water than they need.

“It’s not bad to have the grass show a little bit of signs of heat stress,” Brewer said.

In Cheney, officials asked residents to avoid outdoor watering in the middle of the day, and for even-numbered addresses to water only on even-numbered dates and odd-numbered addresses to water on odd-numbered dates.

Cheney pumped the most water last month since 2009, according to Todd Ableman, the city’s public works director.

Dan Kegley, Spokane’s water services supervisor, called this “one of the driest summers in recent memory,” although he said the city has enough water supply, even if the heat continues through August.

“We’re able to handle it,” Kegley said.