Crunch time for irrigation districts

TRI-CITIES - Warm days remind us Spring is on the way. And that means crunch time for irrigation districts. They're prepping canals to spot problems before the water starts flowing. KEPR looked at how this season is shaping up.

Irrigation workers know -- flames are a sign Spring has almost sprung. And while the burning happens each year -- Columbia Irrigation District crews say it doesn't get old.

"I enjoy working here because it's never boring," said CID Operations Lead Pat Loftus.

That is -- if you like burning tumbleweed and fixing canal liners. Pump station valves and gates that open up the Yakima River also get tuned up or repaired. It's all part of the process to prepare for the water to flow. It's a system followed by other local irrigation districts. To these folks, it's about ensuing the most-efficient water supply -- to meet local demand for ratepayers like Phil.

"Well, you wouldn't have no green grass if it wasn't for them," said irrigation district patron Phil Joseph.

Phil recognizes the need to irrigate both yards and farms. Several of his neighbors are farmers and rely on the district to keep their crops growing. Irrigation leaders expect a good mountain snow-pack will make for a sufficient supply this year. But that doesn't mean they're not aware of the need to use the water carefully.

"We don't have any extra water to waste," added Loftus.

While the pumps may only be used for a portion of the year, workers tell me - the job really never stops and it's one that's dependant on the weather. For example -- in the fall when the water supply is cut off -- workers have to winterize these pipes -- to protect them from the cold temperatures.

And crews need to be ready for the wind as well. This brings its own challenges to the flowing canals.

"If we have a windstorm, we got to have more people out there, we got to make sure the tumbleweeds aren't causing a blockage somewhere," said Loftus.

All to create a better flow -- for green lawns and thriving farms. Most districts will have water available in the coming weeks.