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City of Seattle
Ed Murray, Mayor

SUBJECT: Seattle Parks to conduct pilot water-saving project in selected parks

5/22/2012  10:34:00 AM

Seattle Parks to conduct pilot water-saving project in selected parks
Water, budget savings to be evaluated in the winter

To anticipate and possibly offset upcoming budget reductions, Parks and Recreation staff are working on a strategy to reduce water usage and costs while maintaining the health of Parks’ living assets.

“Our crews are excited about being able to make a tangible contribution to our water conservation efforts,” said Acting Parks Superintendent Christopher Williams. “It’s also an opportunity to learn what may happen during drought conditions and to validate the assumptions in our drought contingency plan.”

Parks pays about $1.25 million each year to irrigate 300 of Seattle’s 430-plus parks. Of these, about 100 have their water use regulated by a state of the art, computerized irrigation system that measures how much water is needed at any given time and turns irrigation on and off at precise times.

Parks conducted a study of water consumption over the past five years and evaluated landscape irrigation priorities in order to plan for a drought that fortunately has not materialized. The results inspired the staff to put together a plan for testing Parks’ ability to cut water consumption without damaging the living assets that make our parks green.

From June through September 2012, Parks plans to stop or reduce watering in selected parks. Horticulturists and professional gardeners will experiment with the point to which a living asset can tolerate a lack of water without damage. Park sites for the pilot project fall into one of three categories: Irrigation is automatically turned off; irrigation is automatically reduced; or manual watering will stop or take place less frequently. Parks staff will monitor the landscapes for health and adapt if needed.

Park users and observers will see some brown grass and some park shrub beds not watered as often as before; crews watering earlier in the day and less frequently at parks not controlled by the automatic system.

Priority for normal watering will go to athletic fields, specialty gardens, picnic shelters, and newly planted landscapes. Golf course irrigation is managed separately.

Criteria for evaluating the success of the program, which will take place in the fall and winter of 2012-2013, include how the plants fared, how the public reacts, and how much water and money were saved. Parks will have this information when bills come in for the pilot period.

If the pilot is successful, Parks may continue it, rotating sites so as not to put too much stress on a given site.

For more information contact Karen Galt, Irrigation Conservation Program Coordinator at 206-684-0370 or

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