July 30, 2001
Caught between a rock and a dry outlook
by Bronwyn Wilson
Problems loom on the horizon if the Northshore area experiences a dry season this coming fall.
Considering the possibility, George Schneider, Water Resource Manager at Seattle Public Utilities (SPU), said, "If that happens, we could definitely be in a pinch."
Spring and summer rains, he said, helped turn around the deficit left from the second driest winter on record in the Puget Sound area.
However, Schneider pointed out that the needed rainfall didn't correct the situation entirely and said, "The consequences [of the dry winter] are continuing to be felt in the streams and groundwater."
The cumulative precipitation in the watersheds and inflows to the reservoirs remain below normal, even with the recent rainfall.
According to Ted Buehner, meteorologist at the National Weather Service, there isn't any indication at this time of temperature and precipitation levels leaning in any particular direction for fall ‹ whether above, below or at normal.
"What it boils down to," he said, " [is] we're looking at a climatologically normal fall and winter."
He said that mid-August to mid-September will bring a clearer picture of what the weather might have in store for the fall season.
Since the spring and summer rainfall didn't replenish aquifers, cities that rely on groundwater may have to rely on SPU for their water supply.
In addition, water in the reservoirs supplements the river flows for spawning salmon. Natural inflows are often at their lowest point in mid-September when spawning salmon return to the Tolt and Cedar rivers.
Last week, SPU stated in a weekly update: "SPU will need to release more water from storage than is typical to provide adequate flows for fish during the summer and for salmon returning to the watersheds during the fall."
Said Schneider, "We're obligated to release enough water so there's good spawning."
But, he said this doesn't help the salmon-bearing rivers not fed off reservoirs. With a lack of fall rain, Schneider said salmon habitat would be reduced at those rivers.
Also, there's very little snow pack in the Cascades to refill Seattle's reservoirs.
In an effort to offset the water shortage, Woodinville Water District's customers started voluntarily conserving water on April 6.
Deborah Rannfeldt, Public Information Coordinator, said that Woodinville residents had saved 16.4 million gallons of water so far.
Consumption, she said, dropped as much as 10 percent but recently began creeping up again.
Currently, water consumption is down 4 percent.
"We'd like to see our customers try to reduce their outdoor irrigation and get us back to 10 percent," said Rannfeldt.
To cut back, she suggests that customers water their lawns early in the day. Early morning, she explained, is the best time to water as opposed to later in the day when a good portion of water is lost to evaporation.
"We have lots and lots of wonderful brochures on how to have a healthy wise garden and irrigate properly," said Rannfeldt.
"Ten percent is not difficult to achieve and it will help ensure that we have water for all uses this summer and fall."
Smart watering brochures are available at the Woodinville Water District and Molbak's.
For further information and water conservation tips, visit www.savingwater.org or go to www.woodinvillewater.com.