Politics & Government

Tacoma, Pierce County aiming to cut water use 10 percent during drought

Tacoma and Pierce County are about to get even browner.

City and county officials said this week that they will cut back on watering plants and grass to try to reduce their water use by 10 percent.

That means more brown lawns in public areas throughout the city and the county, officials said. But they hope to set an example for residents that letting grass go brown during this year’s excessively dry conditions is OK.

“It is a sign to the people that we’re trying to do our part,” said Ryan Dicks, Pierce County’s sustainability manager. Dicks added that visitors soon will notice yellowing grass at facilities such as the County-City Building downtown.

In Tacoma, city staff members will stop watering the grass at more than 30 areas maintained by the Public Works Department.

These include police substations, fire stations, public rights-of-way and about a dozen parks, according to a city memorandum sent to department heads Friday.

In addition, the city will water plant beds only once a week, and only at night.

“It’s going to save a lot of water, for sure,” said Jeff Jenkins, Tacoma’s assistant public works director.

Jenkins said the city hasn’t examined its water bills in detail to determine how exactly much their efforts might save.

But for Tacoma Water, which serves more than 300,000 customers throughout Pierce and King counties, a 10 percent reduction could save 7 million to 8 million gallons of water a day, city officials said.

Local sports fields will get a break, as county officials said they will continue to water ball fields and golf courses.

MetroParks Tacoma will also work to maintain sports fields and picnic areas while cutting back on watering grass elsewhere, spokesman Michael Thompson said.

“We’re balancing the need to conserve water with the need to provide recreational services to the people that live here,” Thompson said.

Lawns that go dormant will become green again once rains return in the fall and winter, he said.

The move to conserve water comes as the water utilities in Tacoma, Everett and Seattle are asking customers to voluntarily reduce their water use by 10 percent.

According to Friday’s memo from Tacoma officials, a 10 percent reduction in water use now could prevent a mandatory ban on lawn and turf watering later in the year.

Washington has experienced unusually hot and dry weather this year, with Seattle going through its driest May-to-July period on record and wildfires burning through parched lands in the central and eastern parts of the state.

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