There were multiple presentations at the August 15 Coeur d'Alene City Council meeting and an update about the city's public water usage was the first of the evening. Turns out, summer is depleting the city's public water sources and, although new development was not listed as a concern for the extra water usage, landscaping/irrigation is 75% of the city’s water consumption.
CDA Public Water Facts
Between hours of 2am-6am, the public typically pumping at least half of the daily water usage, all for irrigation. Almost 9 million gallons of water in those 4 hours.
75% of summertime consumption is for irrigation beginning in mid to late May and running through September.
Biggest users are CDA Parks Department and the CDA School District. They have been asked to cut back and it has helped with overall consumption.
The water usage is typically between 34-35 million gallons of water per day with the July peak being 38.8 million. The Water Department is expecting this Tuesday or Wednesday to be the peak for August and will probably exceed July’s peak.
Water usage has pumped well over double the amount monthly since May. Could be because of warmer than normal weather in 2023 and little to no rainfall in June, July, and August.
Estimating the city will hit 5 billion gallons of water used this year. Typically it’s 4.2-4.5 billion gallons on average per year.
Operationally the Water Department can do up to 49 million gallons per day, or 34,000 gallons per minute. (We’re pushing 40 million gallons per day for the August peak.
What Can We Do Now?
The aggressive annexation, upzoning, and high density housing is lightly mentioned as "we have estimated average growth rates and have scheduled new production/storage facilities in anticipation." The issue is that half of the water storage tanks are sitting unused for 9 months out of the year because North Idaho has 4 seasons and we only need a majority of the water in 1 season.
If the city were to construct another tank that will be sitting for 9 months, it will cost taxpayers "around $1.5 million dollars and drinking water storage costs $5 to $9 dollars per gallon to construct (a 1 million gallon tank is about $9 million dollars), dependent on the site." They also have to take into consideration that they don't currently have the property to put another tank and with land values skyrocketing, a new facility site is practically impossible.
What is the future of CDA public water?
From the historical context in the council board packet:
"The Water Comprehensive Plans have estimated average growth rates and have scheduled new production and storage facilities in anticipation of the anticipated growth. However, irrigation requirements are rather difficult to quantify. So respectively, schedules have had to remain somewhat flexible to match the peaks and ebbs of the economy and related system improvements and demand. Over the past several years, Administration and Water Department staff have discussed issues regarding steadily increasing water usage, especially in the terms of irrigation of green space, as well as the cost of facilities sitting idle for two thirds of the year. The last two rate studies imposed stepped rate structures in an unsuccessful attempt to curb the excessive irrigation use as well as promote irrigation efficiencies and low water use landscape. A more aggressive tact may be required to slow the increasing use. While we have sufficient capacity to manage the overall daily demands, the peak hourly demands in the early mornings for irrigation exceed our instantaneous pumping capacity and rapidly deplete our 8 million gallon storage capacity to make up the difference."
Dan Gookin told the Water Department to speak up during planning & zoning hearings if they feel new development will further strain the water system, but that was the only constructive feedback from the city council about this ongoing issue. In the meantime, curb your water usage when you can and use this issue in your playbook when speaking out against new development. ;)