Central Oregon cities are urging residents to use less water during the next week as hundreds of thousands of people are expected to flock to the area for Monday’s total solar eclipse.
The city of Bend has asked residents to reduce landscape irrigation by running their sprinklers for less time, checking for problems in their irrigation systems and only watering lawns at night.
These are precautionary measures to offset an expected spike in water use, but the city’s water system will be able to handle increased demand, Water Conservation Program Manager Mike Buettner said.
“We’re not worried about the capacity or meeting demands,” he said.
Some of the steps are already part of Bend’s water conservation program, including inspecting irrigation systems for leaks, overspray or runoff, avoiding watering lawns between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. and watering only on even-numbered days for even addresses and odd-numbered days for odd addresses.
The city also asked residents to reduce the number of minutes they use water to reduce total irrigation times by 10 percent during the next week.
Buettner said he didn’t know how much water this could save because water use varies a lot during the summer. Bend generally uses about 5 million or 6 million gallons of water a day in the winter, but that number rises to somewhere around 25 million to 28 million gallons in the summer.
Bend gets most of its water from the Bridge Creek watershed, with the Deschutes Regional Aquifer as a secondary source in the summer. The same water used in homes is used for outdoor irrigation.
Residents don’t need to do as much to reduce indoor water use because most homes were built in the past 30 years and have efficient fixtures, Buettner said.
“Homes in Bend are efficient indoor users,” he said.
Landscape irrigation is responsible for most of the water use, and the city suggested adjusting irrigation schedules and programmed run times to provide less water during the next few days.
Bend Park & Recreation District, one of the city’s largest water users, already is reducing its water usage, park district landscape manager Mike Duarte said. Many of the larger parks have events this weekend, and the district will try to water only one day out of the weekend. Duarte also reduced most sprinkler control systems to use 80 percent of the water they would have used.
“We’re already transitioning into our fall irrigation setting,” he said.
Although Bend parks will not allow camping in the days around the eclipse, Duarte said they’ll watch for people staying late in the parks when irrigating.
Madras, which is in the path of totality and is considered one of the best placed in the country to view the eclipse, asked its 6,500 residents to avoid watering their lawns in the few days around the eclipse, said Lysa Vattimo, the city’s solar eclipse plan facilitator. The city also asked residents to avoid using high-energy appliances, such as dishwashers and washing machines, during peak hours.
Madras is confident that its local water and power providers will be able to handle thousands of extra visitors, she said, but conserving water and energy is still a good idea.
“I want to make sure that we have an enjoyable experience,” Vattimo said.
Prineville, which is also in the path of totality, has not taken any steps to conserve water other than an early summer reminder about irrigation times, City Recorder Lisa Morgan said.
She said the city’s biggest concern at the point is handling eclipse-related traffic, not conserving water or energy.
None of the cities expect the influx of visitors to overwhelm water systems, but if there are issues, they have procedures in place to curtail water usage.
However, the Red Cross recommended in a Tuesday release that people living or traveling near the path of totality keep at least 1 gallon of water per person per day in their cars and at least 3 gallons per person in their homes.
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