After an unusually dry summer and with an extended forecast that calls for continued dry conditions, Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) activated the Voluntary Stage of its Water Shortage Contingency Plan on Sept. 21. Cascade Water Alliance, which Bellevue is a member of, supports SPU's efforts and activated its Water Shortage Plan as well. As a member of Cascade Water Alliance, Bellevue has activated its Water Shortage Management Plan.
What does this mean for residents?
Residents and businesses are being asked to voluntarily reduce water use.
What can I do to save water?
Visit the Saving Water Partnership’s website for more information and the full list of actions you can take to save water. Here are some of the top actions we are asking customers to take:
- Stop watering your lawn for the season. Water established trees, shrubs, and perennials once a month or less. (It’s okay to efficiently water newly planted lawns, young plants and trees, and vegetable gardens).
- Take shorter or fewer showers and take showers instead of baths.
- Fix leaks, especially running toilets.
- Delay car washing or use a carwash that recycles water
Why is SPU concerned about water supply?
Our water comes from snow and rain that collects in two reservoirs in the Cascade Mountains. The water supply was looking good for much of the year. However, dry conditions have drawn down the reservoirs faster than normal. Extended forecasts show continued dry weather and a potential delay in the return of sustained autumn rains. As a result, SPU is concerned about having sufficient water through the end of the year for people and fish. Visit Seattle Public Utilities' blog to keep up with the latest water supply information.
What’s the goal? How much water do we need to save?
Our regional water use nearly doubles during summer, mostly due to irrigation. SPU wants to reduce the use down to winter water levels (100 million gallons a day) as soon as possible and keep it at or below that level until the return of sustained autumn rains refill our mountain reservoirs to the necessary levels. SPU doesn't have a specific goal and are asking each person or household to save—we all can do something, and it all adds up to make a difference.
It rained recently, is the drought over?
We typically get about 26 inches of rain in our mountain watersheds between May and September. This year we only received a quarter of that. All rain is helpful! However, to sufficiently refill our reservoirs, we need sustained rain in the mountains. Visit Seattle Public Utilities' blog to keep up with the latest water supply information.
Residents in our region have taken action to reduce water use and this chart shows that it is working.
Do my actions really matter?
We all have a part to play. If we work together to reduce our water use in our homes, businesses, and outdoors we can stretch our water supply until we get enough rain to refill the mountain reservoirs to the necessary levels. Even seemingly small everyday actions add up to make a difference.
How long will this last? When will conditions return to normal?
SPU and Cascade plan to go back to normal water use when enough rain falls to sufficiently fill the mountain reservoirs.
Why wasn't the public alerted sooner?
The water supply was looking good for much of the year. We had a healthy snowpack this winter and SPU hit water supply refill targets this spring. However, the last several months have been very dry as are the forecasted conditions into autumn. As those forecasts became firmer, SPU started taking steps to activate its Water Shortage Contingency Plan.
What is the City doing to reduce its own water use?
City departments are making operational changes where possible to reduce water use, including use related to irrigation, vehicle washing, and turning off non-re-circulating water features. Bellevue Utilities is also reducing non-essential water use, such as large commercial water meter testing and in-city reservoir cleaning.
Are we going to run out of water? Should I stock up on bottled water?
There is no need to buy bottled water or skimp on water used for cooking, drinking, and sanitation. SPU activated the Voluntary Stage because of concern about a potential water shortage this autumn. In past instances, the community really stepped up and used less water. If we all save where we can, we are confident we can stretch our supply until the return of the sustained autumn rains.
Will the salmon in the Cedar and Tolt Rivers be impacted?
There are many fish species in our two mountain watersheds including Chinook, Coho and Sockeye Salmon, Bull Trout, Steelhead, and more. We manage the water in our system in a way that supports the fish and ecosystems of the rivers. This year (and every year) we will continue to release water from the mountain reservoirs into the rivers so that fish have enough water, manage river flows so that salmon redds (nests) don’t dry out, and in the winter use our dams to hold back storm water when it could wash out salmon redds (nests).