Water rationing spurs finger-pointing, possible solutions

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This week’s water rationing order by Moses Lake city officials prompts many questions. Are we running out of water? Is there enough room to support current and future growth? Why are we rationing now? Is the county issuing too many water permits?

Monday’s water rationing order enacted by the city means residents must abide by a schedule to water lawns and wash cars. Homes with even-numbered addresses can water on even days and odd-numbered homes water on odd days. The same schedule applies to car washing at home.

We realize this is an inconvenience to those of you who want green lawns during high temperatures and clean cars on demand. But sacrifice is in order. We thought it best to include information directly from the city’s water rationing order, included below.

“The water system is in need of relief; water usage has caused reservoirs to have low level alarms, wells available in the zones cannot keep up with the demand during this period of hot weather. The Water Division recommends that there be a city-wide rationing until all the wells can keep up with the demand.”

There appear to be many contributing factors, as online commenters on the Columbia Basin Herald and City of Moses Lake Facebook pages point out. We think discourse is great, but let’s be careful about casting blame if we don’t know all the facts. Blaming certain water users or a state agency doesn’t help solve the problem. And all details aren’t entirely known. One issue appears to be inadequate pumping capacity, according to one commenter. “For whatever reason, pumping capacity - which must allow for equipment failure - hasn’t kept up. Increasing pumping capacity is neither cheap nor easy, so this situation will probably get worse before it gets better.” We feel this was a well-thought-out comment that analyzed the issue well.

We feel other responses might have been thought out better. Posting photos of lawns that were watered off schedule is probably not the best way to build community. Perhaps some people needed lead time to adjust their watering schedules. The water rationing order was put into effect immediately on Monday because of the urgent situation. So, giving people the benefit of the doubt might be a good idea. Especially given many people are gone during the summer months and may have timers on their sprinkler systems.

Some good questions cropped up too. One reader asked why water couldn’t just be removed from Moses Lake to meet the increased demand. A former city administrator replied online that doing so is “complicated and expensive” due to the water ownership, permitting and water treatment issues.

Indeed, water is a complicated and heavily regulated issue in our state. We need water for life, agriculture and development. We appreciate ideas and comments that help bring the city to a solution.

— Editorial Board

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