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As Spokane River flows drop, city urges residents to conserve water

Spokane is now in a level 2 drought declaration, which steps up requirements to save water.

Under a measure approved last year, Spokane residents are required to conserve water during the summer, even when there’s not an active state of drought.

But when the Spokane River’s flow drops to less than 1,000 cubic feet per a second, which happened Tuesday, residents are allowed to water their yards for only two hours a day, two days a week, and are not allowed to wash their sidewalks and driveways.

Kirstin Davis, the city’s public works communications manager, said Spokane’s water use is significantly above average.

"We over water in this area, you know we're in the 98th percentile of water usage in the country," she said.

Davis said most water waste is from outdoor watering and watering during the wrong time of day. She said there are many ways to conserve water, including not watering on windy days and investing in water-saving sprinkler systems.

“That water, two things, one is the water is basically evaporating, it’s not necessarily reaching the ground, or the plants, or just a portion of it is," she said. "And then secondly, when we have windy conditions, that water is just blowing away.”

Spokane will remain in the level-two drought response mode until river flows rise. Level-one restrictions, which include avoiding watering during the hottest part of the day, and a four-day-a-week watering limit remain in effect until October.

Rebecca White is a 2018 graduate of Edward R Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. She's been a reporter at Spokane Public Radio since February 2021. She got her start interning at her hometown paper The Dayton Chronicle and previously covered county government at The Spokesman-Review.