Less rain, more use leads city to downgrade ‘water-supply outlook’

(ADDED: WSB photo, dried-out slopes beneath Myrtle Reservoir water towers)
Please use water “wisely,” the city is imploring you, as it downgrades the official “water-supply outlook” because of high temperatures, low rainfall, and increased water use. It’s **not** calling for restrictions, yet, but Seattle Public Utilities is making some water-management changes – read on:

The city’s news release:

After the hottest June in recorded history, higher-than-usual water consumption, record-low stream flows into storage reservoirs and the onset of El Niño conditions, Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) today changed its water supply outlook from good to fair.

The utility is now making operational changes to maximize water supply, and customers are asked to continue to use water wisely. Seattle is not implementing water use restrictions at this time.

“We are taking prudent steps to manage our water supply during these unusual conditions,” Mayor Edward Murray said.

“We still have adequate supply until fall rains return, thanks to careful planning,” SPU Director Ray Hoffman said. “We know city residents will continue to be thoughtful about their water use.

“Summer effectively started at least a month early — it hasn’t rained more than a few drops since June 1, and our supply reservoirs are lower than normal,” Hoffman added. “At the same time, water use has exceeded expected use by 21 percent since May 1.”

To help manage the city’s water supply, SPU is taking several actions which include preparing pumps that can help access billions of additional gallons of water at Chester Morse Lake Reservoir in the Cedar River watershed and turning on the city’s well field north of Sea-Tac Airport.

The utility is also considering if and when to implement its Water Shortage Contingency Plan (WSCP), which would allow the department to respond in the event of a potential water shortage. The plan was last implemented in 2005.

SPU continues to release water from its reservoirs to help with stream flows for fish on the Cedar and South Fork Tolt Rivers, providing protection for incubating salmon and steelhead trout.

Examples of using water wisely include using efficient plant-watering systems and watering before 10 a.m. and after 7 p.m. Water-saving tips can be found online, at the Saving Water Partnership website.

A weekly report on Seattle’s water supply is available on the SPU website.

If you’re interested in the kinds of measures the city would consider if it DID declare a shortage, check out attachment C of the “contingency plan.”

14 Replies to "Less rain, more use leads city to downgrade 'water-supply outlook'"

  • West Seattle Hipster July 8, 2015 (3:57 pm)

    We re-use our gray water for watering plants, hate to see it just go down the drain.

  • pupsarebest July 8, 2015 (4:02 pm)

    I would strongly urge all you homeowners out there to start a daily log of your water use by monitoring your meter.
    In spite of every effort to reduce our water use, our last bill (April 1-June 2, before the drought set in) indicated 3 CCFs OVER the same period last year.
    None of our toilets are leaking, we are not running our backyard fountain, not watering the lawn as in past years, showering 3x a week rather than every day, one of the two of us frequently out-of-town for business, front-load, high-efficiecy washer, and constantly, almost obsessively, aware of and striving to reduce our water use.
    The last two rotating digits on your meter are the ones to watch—each turnover from 1-99 indicates 7.48 gallons of water used.
    I should say, “ostensibly indicates”—it’s an interesting coincidence that no one ever looks at their bill and believes it’s way too low. 😏

  • Ray July 8, 2015 (4:24 pm)

    I really wish the city would instigate water rationing at this time. There is no sense to have people watering their lawns all week long when they could cut back to every other day or 3rd day.

  • westseattledood July 8, 2015 (4:45 pm)

    Really smart WS Hipster.

    I am seeing dead or dying trees and shrubs for the first time ever.

    There is no moisture deep in the rootzones. I am choosing my most desirable trees and shrubs i want to survive and give them lots of deep soaks – at the dripline for the bigger trees. Maples and rhodies are shallow rooted and I am seeing burnt leaves on neighbor’s trees. A couple of gallons from a bucket daily with a spout rather than a hose on slow flow will give the roots relief. Throw thick mulch or compost over the damp soil once the leaves uncurl and the shrub looks less stressed.

    And only water very early AM or sundown.

    That’s just my strategy but I’d love to hear how others are helping their yards with less water.

  • West Seattle Daddy July 8, 2015 (4:56 pm)

    Like in California: “if it’s yellow it’s mellow…if it’s brown it goes down”

  • Alki resident July 8, 2015 (6:18 pm)

    The Parks Department needs to shut off the water sprinklers along Alki Avenue.

  • KM July 8, 2015 (7:28 pm)

    Some really great suggestions here! I need to work on they greywater watering myself. A shower timer, and or what I’ve heard people refer to as “army showers” can be great, only run the water when necessary in the shower (i.e. rinsing, lather prep.) Less laundry if possible too–rather than washing something that’s been worn once, only wash if dirty (spills, smells bad, etc.)

  • NW July 8, 2015 (8:14 pm)

    When I run the water before the shower always have a small bucket handy to use and keep from wasting it down drain quick showers 3 to 4 minutes also only running dishwasher when it’s entirely full that goes for full loads of laundry too.

  • Mike July 9, 2015 (12:26 am)

    I agree with stopping the watering of planter strips and nice-to-haves that the city continues to waste water on.

  • John July 9, 2015 (7:10 am)

    Every single month…year after year….my water bill says I average 22 gallons per day. I pat myself on the back for that. The average person uses between 80 to 100 gallons/day.
    All my plants are drought tolerant. I let my lawn go brown. Fire up the dishwasher only when completely full. Yellow be mellow…brown flush it down….etc.

  • Colin July 10, 2015 (12:07 am)

    People should look into composting toilets. Regular toilets use a large percentage of the water in an average household while composting toilets don’t use any water.

  • Alki Vista July 10, 2015 (11:20 pm)

    I too do not believe in wasting water. But I also believe a city of beautiful yards is preferable to one with dead brown lawns and dying plants, unless there is a declared water shortage. This not just for the sense of well being created by green plants compared to the inner angst from stressed brown ones, but also on behalf of the animal life, the birds and critters that need water to survive too. Lately the song bird presence in my green yard has increased dramatically especially during our heat wave. Then it dawned on me, they’ve come to my oasis for water in this otherwise desert wasteland. I even have a bird bath! Oh the brown lovers’ horror! Then there’s the fire hazard nobody talks about, but the wild fire disaster in Wenatchee should wake people up. Brown is dangerous! Oh and there ARE water restrictions in place. Have been ever since the fictional drought 20 or so years ago “forced” the city to institute the 3 tier discriminatory water rate system still in place today with only slightly reduced penalties for use outside the approved profile. Another story for another time.

  • Alki Vista July 10, 2015 (11:37 pm)

    We sure can get behind the water conservation bandwagon. I’d like to know what all this saved water is helping. Is the unused water in our reservoirs going to desperate farmers to water their crops? Or is it just sitting there placidly reflecting the big smiles of water department checkers who can feel smug at how successful they are, before it evaporates in that eternal water cycle we all learned about in grade school! BTW, the full expression is “If it’s yellow let it mellow. If it’s brown flush it down.” Per my Midwest family members – they get droughts there too.

  • Alki Vista July 11, 2015 (12:04 am)

    Rather than turning off the sprinklers along Admiral Way, how about just fixing the broken ones that gush water now and then, and keep the plants green. Or even better, remove the center plant islands altogether and make traffic lanes out of them. Then drivers could get where they’re going and out of their cars faster. Then there’d be less CO2 in the atmosphere, global warming would slow and temps would get back to normal.

    AND how about this city and county wide item! Put faucet and especially shower flow restrictors on hotel showers which have gone to almost exclusively temperature-control-only levers with full volume all the time. Now there is a HUGE water waste. And I’ll bet the same is true for all the thousands of new condo rooms sprouting all over what was once West Seattle before our somewhat lazy community got bulldozed to be replaced by a standing room only Urban Village.

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