UNITED STATES NEWS

1.5 million people asked to conserve water in Seattle because of statewide drought

Sep 21, 2023, 3:47 PM

SEATTLE (AP) — Seattle Public Utilities is asking about 1.5 million customers in the Seattle area to use less water as drought conditions continue throughout most of the state.

Residents on Thursday were asked to stop watering their lawns, to reduce shower time, to only run full laundry machines and dishwashers, and to fix leaking pipes and running toilets, according to a post on the utility’s website.

An unusually dry summer along with a forecast of ongoing dry conditions, including a potential delay in sustained autumn rains, have prompted concerns about having sufficient water for people and fish, the utility said.

“Our hydrologic model suggests a deep drawdown of our mountain reservoirs. Water levels are already lower than average, and we are adjusting to sustain adequate water supply for our customers and the rivers this fall,” Elizabeth Garcia, utility water resources planner, said in the online statement.

Garcia said customers are asked to use less water until there is enough rain to refill the mountain reservoirs to necessary levels. The last time it made a similar request was in 2015, the utility said.

Recent rainfall has helped reservoir levels, and rain currently in the forecast is good, but it’s just a start, Alex Chen, director of SPU’s drinking water division, told The Seattle Times.

The watersheds that stock the utility’s reservoirs typically see upwards of 26 inches (66 centimeters) of rain between May and September, Chen said. This year they’ve seen only 7 or 8 inches (17 to 20 centimeters).

Across Washington, state officials declared a drought advisory in early July, which was followed several weeks later by a drought emergency for 12 counties. Currently, nearly 10% of the state is in extreme drought with 43% in severe drought, according to U.S. Drought Monitor data.

If conditions don’t improve, Seattle Public Utilities can mandate water restrictions. Chen said that hasn’t been done since 1992.

“We’re hoping we don’t have to do that here,” Chen said.

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1.5 million people asked to conserve water in Seattle because of statewide drought