Moses Lake, MLIRD look to partner on irrigation utility


MOSES LAKE — The Moses Lake Irrigation and Rehabilitation District is proposing to work with the City of Moses Lake to jointly study the development of a municipal irrigation utility to use lake water on parks, lawns and gardens within city limits.

During a presentation to the Moses Lake City Council on Tuesday, Feb. 8, MLIRD Board Member Kaj Selmann said the two municipalities should work together on a long-term plan to make lake water available, first to water city parks, and eventually lawns and gardens in new housing developments.

“Hopefully, we can come to a good agreement here where we can bring everybody’s expertise to bear in a way that makes it so the irrigation water that’s in the lake, that citizens have the right to use, can get to those places is a way that makes it so there’s plenty of water for development,” Selmann told city council members.

The MLIRD has rights to 50,000 acre feet of water from Moses Lake dating from the time the district was formed nearly a century ago. Currently, the MLIRD was no way of distributing that water to potential irrigators — farmers simply pumped water from the lake as they needed it, Selmann said, and it was easier to water lawns and gardens from the municipal water system as the city grew.

Creating an irrigation water utility — something the cities of Quincy and Othello are also examining — would, in time, allow the city to use less potable water pumped from aquifers deep under the city for other uses, and reserving that water for drinking and washing.

Costs for creating a new irrigation system for Moses Lake, even if it started only providing lake water to city parks, would still be high and require a great deal of time to complete.

“We have to plan it in phases,” said city Municipal Services Director David Bren. “First of all, we need to start thinking about large parks. Phase one would be large parks and ball fields and green spaces.”

Bren said he expected such a system would need to be phased in over 20-40 years.

“It’s just too expensive to do all at once,” he said.

Moses Lake City Manager Allison Williams said the initial goal is for the city and the MLIRD to reach an agreement to study the possibility of an irrigation system, and that a feasibility study would “take quite some time.”

In an email to the Columbia Basin Herald after the meeting, Williams wrote she expects the council to discuss the study agreement with the MLIRD at its next meeting on March 8.

But one council member already signaled his support.

“I would definitely say I’m completely supportive of moving forward,” said Mark Fancher, who noted that a lot of city and area residents are already paying an assessment to the MLIRD and have, in a way, already bought the water.

“Unfortunately, we don’t get an opportunity to utilize it today,” he said. “So I think it’s a win-win.”

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached at cfeatherstone@columbiabasinherald.com

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