North Bend, with its nine-year track record of promoting water conservation, has been making significant strides. These efforts, such as the introduction of the Water Conservation Ordinance (WCO) in 2020, have led to impressive results. Even with a substantial rise in water users from 2009 to 2022, the city managed to reduce its water production by 40 million gallons.
The local community has been central to this progress. Highlighting the community’s contribution, Mayor McFarland stated, “We all understand that future years may be dryer than average, putting pressure on water systems that serve our growing region. Common sense water conservation measures, such as North Bend’s WCO, are a step in the right direction to educate, encourage, and, if needed, enforce wise use of this precious resource.”
However, environmental challenges continue to present themselves. An early snowmelt in the Cascade mountains, following a notably hot and dry May, has reduced water levels in the Snoqualmie River, jeopardizing its aquatic life, particularly the migrating salmon. As a response, North Bend rolled out Stage 3 of the WCO in September 2023.
Parallelly, Seattle is gearing up its water conservation endeavors. After experiencing an exceptionally dry summer, Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) initiated its Water Shortage Contingency Plan. They have now entered the voluntary reduction stage, urging their vast customer base of 1.5 million to minimize their water usage.
Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell emphasized the gravity of the situation, remarking, “SPU staff has been thoughtfully preparing for dry conditions throughout the summer, working to ensure an adequate water supply for the needs of residents and fish throughout our region. With these dry conditions sticking around, we must all do our part.”
Andrew Lee, General Manager of Seattle Public Utilities, expressed faith in the residents, saying, “Our customers are great stewards of our environment and already use water wisely every day, and we believe they will take our request to heart. This will be a temporary ask until the fall rains return.”
In the background of these efforts, Seattle has seen an intriguing trend over the past 40 years. Despite a 50% increase in their customer base, overall water usage has decreased by 30%. Noel Miller, Chair of the SPU Customer Review Panel, acknowledged SPU’s relentless efforts, sharing, “While not highly visible work, SPU has done a remarkable job year after year of managing our most precious resource.”
With both cities making concerted efforts and their leaders emphasizing the importance of community involvement, the Pacific Northwest hopes to tackle the challenges of the changing climate head-on.