Water usage in Coeur d’Alene could be restricted if calls for conservation continue to go unanswered

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho — “The Water Department is urging all customers to water wisely during this unprecedented event in order to ensure all citizens have adequate water.” That’s the request the City of Coeur d’Alene sent to residents last week.

But according to the Water Department’s director Terry Pickel, those calls went mostly unanswered.

On July 1, the city pumped a new record of nearly 43 million gallons per day, which exceeded its peak day last year of 37.4 million gallons on August 9. Its maximum capacity is 43.8 million gallons per day.

“We are running all 10 wells in the mornings and still losing ground on reservoir levels,” Pickel said. “In the afternoons we are just able to catch up before the evening irrigation begins.”

In the winter months, the city runs on three wells at 8 million gallons per day. That means nearly 75 percent of the summer use can be attributed to irrigation.

“If this heat continues for an extended period of time, which we are seeing the possibility of, we may get to the point where mandatory restrictions may have to be put in place for outdoor water use if our customers cannot voluntarily help us out,” Pickel said. “This can range from odd/even watering schedules to restricted hours or potential curtailment completely if one or more sources were to fail.”

Pickel said in his 16 years working for the city, officials have not been forced to put restrictions in place. They came close in 2013, when a major pump failed just before the summer season.

“However, we have not seen conditions such as this weather in recent years with continued growth,” Pickel said. “Residential demand has nearly doubled in the past five years.”

City officials encourage customers to voluntarily observe every other day watering schedules and to avoid watering between noon and 6 p.m. Pickel said 80 percent of the water is lost to evaporation during the heat of the day and can do more harm to your lawn, shrubs and plants than good.

Other water conservation recommendations include:

  • Look at drip irrigation for gardens and shrubs
  • Check your irrigation system to ensure all heads are functioning properly
  • On sloped yards, water in short cycles to prevent runoff and keep water off concrete and asphalt