Part of the city of Banks water system on September 6, 2017. Photo: Chas Hundley

The city of Banks is lifting some restrictions on water usage, moving from stage 3 to stage 2 in the city’s water curtailment plan which will loosen restrictions that had previously barred almost all outdoor water use and restricted indoor use to health and food-related needs. 

Specifically, stage two of the plan restricts water use to the following steps:

-- Mandate commercial and high-volume residential landscape irrigation customers to curtail all outdoor water use by 50%.

-- Mandate that other users limit outdoor water use per the following steps:    

-Unattended outdoor irrigation of turf and plants limited to the period between 8:00 P.M. and 9:00 A.M.

-Limit the length of time that unattended irrigation can occur in each sprinkler zone to 10 minutes per day.

-Eliminate all irrigation for City schools, parks and green spaces.

-Limit residential irrigation by 50%.  This may be achieved by reducing irrigation times by 50% or by instituting an every-other-day irrigation schedule.

-Prohibit home washing of cars or hosing down of patios, walkways, and other surfaces.

The city previously had moved to the most severe water restriction stage — stage 3 — on June 30, and said that stage 3 could last until July 14, unless conditions improved. 

“On behalf of the Mayor, City Council, City Staff and your fellow water customers, I would like to thank you for your patience and cooperation during our recent water curtailment.  We know that curtailment is a stressful and confusing situation to be placed in, and we make every effort to not have to go into curtailment,” wrote City Manager Jolynn Becker in a statement on the city’s website. 

While parks and the schools located in the city won’t be able to use city water for irrigation, Becker noted that Sunset Park and the Banks School District both have private wells to draw water from for their sprinkler systems. 

Becker said that this could be the last summer Banks’ water customers could see the curtailment plan, with the transmission line project expected to be completed in November 2021, four months ahead of schedule. 

What led to the curtailment was a series of water system and weather factors, Becker said. As part of the ongoing transmission line replacement, the city’s Carsten Reservoir Number 1 was drained for repairs and coating. The transmission line also had to be shut down for three days to switch from the old line to a temporary one, and the sand filters at the city’s water treatment plant were shut down for cleaning.

Coupled with the deadly heat wave that struck the Pacific Northwest, the water pumps couldn’t keep up with the stress, and the aquifers needed time to recover from all the water pumped out of them, Becker said. 

“We are going to make every effort to avoid stage 3 curtailment again this summer, however, until the transmission line project is complete, we cannot guarantee that we will not have to go to some level of our curtailment plan,” the city manager noted. 

Those with questions were asked to contact the city at 503-324-5112. The city also has developed a Frequently Asked Questions webpage on the transmission line project.