Though summer doesn’t officially start until Sunday, one city in Pierce County is already warning about a water shortage and taking steps to address it.
Gig Harbor has instituted a voluntary citywide water reduction program because of increased pressure on its wells, and it hasn’t ruled out taking mandatory measures later in the summer.
Jeff Langhelm, Gig Harbor’s public works director, said the aquifer the city draws from is stressed as a result of water use increasing by 30 percent from May 2014 to May 2015.
He attributes the increased use not to population growth, but to more residential watering.
“They water more, the residents do, because of the drought,” Langhelm said.
Gig Harbor’s water service population grew less than 2 percent during that period, he said.
“One of our five wells has been shut down temporarily and will likely not be placed back into service until August,” he said. “The added demand on the remaining four wells, along with the existing stresses of pumping more water than usual, is causing us to be cautious with the resources we have.”
Langhelm said he hopes the voluntary steps will help reduce water use. If not, the city might consider mandatory restrictions, he said.
To keep up with growth, he said the city will draw on additional water rights and is in the process of installing a new well source. No other Pierce County city or water district has instituted water restrictions yet, either voluntary or mandatory.
“Most municipalities are pretty well-managed and are in good shape,” said Chase Gallagher, a spokesman for the Washington State Department of Ecology.
He said two water providers in Clallam County have imposed restrictions — the Upper Fairview Water System and city of Port Angeles.
Even so, Gallagher said, “we like to remind everyone it’s a good idea to be mindful of water use especially in a time of drought.”
Lacey is one city in South Sound that has imposed summer watering limits, but it does so every year as a result of an ordinance approved in 2006.
Homeowners will not be the only ones on the peninsula watching water use this summer.
The city says it will reduce the watering of play areas in parks, and will cut all irrigation of non-play areas except where vegetation is being established.
Gig Harbor Fire and Medic One plans to modify training operations, said Eric Waters, the agency’s prevention chief.
“We plan to include only necessary training, and we’ll shift training that requires large amounts of water to a different time in the year,” he said.
The Peninsula School District, meanwhile, has no specific water plan, but officials plan to meet to discuss ways to cut down on usage, said Kathryn Weymiller, director of district initiatives.
She said the district has a new metering system that provides better data that can be used for water conservation efforts.