NAMPA — The city of Nampa will host an open house on Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m., where residents can learn tips and tricks to ready their yards for an expected drier-than-normal year.
The event will feature a free, one-hour class led by Jos Zamzow about how to “’build your lawn’s drought muscle,’” and answer questions, according to a press release from the city about the event.
At least one representative from each homeowner’s association in Nampa is encouraged to attend, as well as developers and lawn care company employees, said Amy Bowman, communications manager for the city.
Representatives from the city of Nampa, University of Idaho extension, and Jos Zamzow will be at the event to answer questions from the public.
Mayor Debbie Kling has also formed a drought task force to educate the public about the drought and “identify ways to optimize and maximize the available irrigation water,” the release said.
The task force is composed of members of the three irrigation districts serving Nampa — Boise-Kuna, Nampa-Meridian, and Pioneer — as well Zamzows, the Idaho Rural Water Association, city of Nampa staff, Nampa and Vallivue School Districts, and other members of the public, the release said.
“We must all work together to be good stewards of our natural resources,” Kling said in the release. “Nampa is fortunate to have a pressurized irrigation system. We greatly appreciate the time and information local organizations and experts have given on the newly formed drought task force to help us extend our irrigation season as long as possible.”
The task force has met twice so far, and will meet regularly through the irrigation season, Bowman said. Anyone who is interested in attending the meetings can contact the mayor’s office at 208-468-5401 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The open house was one strategy the task force identified to educate residents about conserving water, Bowman said. The task force is also in the process of creating printed and virtual educational materials for the city’s irrigation website (cityofnampa.us/irrigation) as well as video public service announcements.
One of the task force’s main messages is to convey how much water lawns truly need, Bowman said. Experts recommend watering one inch per week prior to Memorial Day, and two inches per week during hot summer months, Bowman said. Further, alternating days of watering, rather than watering every day, can help spread out water use, she said.
The task force has also discussed providing lawns with an appropriate amount of water for its life stage, Bowman said.
“One comment that has come out of the task force is that many homeowners have never updated their automatic sprinkler systems since moving in and the system may still be set for sod grass,” Bowman said. “Established lawns do not need as much water as new lawns and can be wasting water.”
Though residents pay for irrigation water, the amount of water they receive can vary, the release said.
“All irrigation customers pay for the right to access the water, but it is not a guarantee of how much water will be available,” the release said. “Our water supply is completely depending on conditions outside our control such as temperature, precipitation and snowmelt received.”
Idaho is heading into the beginning of irrigation season following one of the driest January to March January-to-March periods on record, according to a tweet from the National Weather Service in Boise.
State agencies have been monitoring precipitation in the region closely over the winter. Fall brought a promising amount of precipitation, placing all but one of the state’s water basins at above normal snowpack, as previously reported by the Idaho Press. But an unseasonably dry January and February has brought drought to most of Idaho, and officials at the National Weather Service are predicting higher-than-usual temperatures and lower than normal precipitation through the spring and summer, as previously reported.
Last year, the Treasure Valley faced a similar predicament. During the winter, the snowpack in most of the state was in good shape. But higher-than-normal summer temperatures melted and evaporated snowpack quickly, leading some irrigation districts, including those serving Nampa, to end irrigation delivery in September, a few weeks earlier than the usual October cutoff.
The amount of snowfall has been decreasing across the U.S. since the 1950s, including in Idaho, according to a report from the University of Idaho’s James A. and Louise McClure Center for Public Policy Research. As the West continues to experience warmer temperatures, it is likely drought as measured by metrics such as soil moisture will become more common, and snowmelt is predicted to begin earlier, the report says. This could spell trouble for southern Idaho, which relies heavily on irrigation water for agriculture, as well as to support other businesses and residents.