SPOKANE – Unlike her neighbors’, Rachael Paschal Osborn’s yard isn’t an expanse of green grass meticulously fertilized and watered on schedule by timed sprinklers.

Paschal Osborn, a public-interest lawyer who teaches water law at Gonzaga University’s Law School, doesn’t like to waste a drop. So the grass in her west Spokane yard is brown during the summer, while drought-resistant native plants and her vegetable garden thrive on drip irrigation.
Climate experts say the rest of Washington may have to follow Paschal Osborn’s example in the future as global warming changes the way residents use water on their yards and in their homes.

The gradual warming of the earth’s surface will have both benefits and drawbacks for municipal water systems, they say.

Kurt Ungur, a hydrogeologist with the state Department of Ecology, said a warmer climate likely will produce about the same amounts of precipitation – possibly a bit more – but its timing will change from historic patterns.

In winter, more precipitation will fall as rain, rather than snow, which serves as the mountain “bank” for much of the state’s water supplies. In spring, warmer temperatures will bring earlier runoff, leading to potential conflicts over scarce water in late summer, he said.

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