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Irrigating instructions

Cheney prepares for high water demand


Even though the spring weather has been mostly cool, Cheney Public Works officials aren’t taking any chances when it comes to the city’s water supply.

Cheney has implemented its annual water conservation schedule it recommends residents and businesses follow in order to reduce any potential strain on its 4.438 million gallon storage system. As in previous years, the schedule is advisory.

“It’s not mandatory,” Public Works Director Todd Ableman said. “It’s just be conscious of your water needs.”

The schedule calls for odd-even watering based on the address, with odd-numbered residences watering on odd calendar days and vice versa. Lawn irrigation should take place in the cooler parts of the day from 5 – 10 a.m. and 7 – 11 p.m., with watering of gardens and flowers suggested between 8 p.m. – 8 a.m.

Ableman and others have stressed that lawns only need about 1 inch of water every 2–3 days in order to be healthy. Most sprinkler systems can be programmed this way, while watering of gardens and flower beds should take place either by a soaker house, drip system or by hand.

Ableman said all six of the city’s available potable water wells are now online, the last two being wells 6 and 7 west of Cheney along State Route 904. Both wells underwent rehabilitation work earlier this year, at a total cost of $88,950, to maintain equipment and boost production.

While well 7 is doing well, well 6 is producing lower than expected. Drilled in 1994 at a depth of 710 feet, the well originally produced 480 gallons per minute before declining in recent years.

“We had hoped for 400-plus,” Ableman said. “Right now we’re getting around 300 after the rehab.”

Cheney has a total of eight wells in its system, with wells 1 and 2, both drilled in 1946, capable of meeting the city’s water needs from October — April. Once the irrigation season kicks in as the weather warms, four more wells are brought on line to meet demand.

Well 4, at a depth of 2,136 feet, produces around 370 gallons per minute, according to city data, but is a non-potable well and not hooked to the system due to turbidity issues. The well, located on Washington Street at Sutton Park, supplies irrigation water only to Sutton, Moos and Salnave parks.

Well 3 has been a non-producer for several years, due to what city officials believe was a collapse of the well casing. The city is planning on redrilling the well, originally at 549 feet, at a cost of $1.8 million with the hopes that it can be returned to service.

Cheney originally applied for the entire $1.8 million amount from the state Department of Health’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. When the project failed to make the cut, local 6th District legislators managed to get $750,000 allocated into the state budget to help get it started, with city officials looking at other funding sources to cover the balance of the work.

Ableman said DOH has signed off on the city’s specifications, and he hopes to bid the drilling portion of the project by the end of July. Drilling could take up to three months, and if all goes according to plan at the site along Erie Street, not far from Eastern Washington University’s well, could be putting in the infrastructure early in 2019.

“Once we know what the (well) production is, we’ll size everything and put out bids for the pump,” Ableman said. “We’ll go down 1,000, 1,200 feet. We figure there is a bigger region (of water) that will give us more gallons per minute. That’s where Eastern went with their well.”

Ableman said all of the city’s reservoirs currently have healthy levels. Low levels in 2014, 2015 and 2017 forced officials to institute mandatory water restrictions until reservoirs were replenished, but all of those emergencies came about through equipment failure at wells, not from high demand.

While the spring weather has been mostly cool, Ableman said hot weather is invariable coming up, creating more demands on the system.

“I’d sure love to have a few torrential downpours before then,” he added.

John McCallum can be reached at


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