Does a Record-Low Snowpack Affect Seattle’s Water?

The sun is out and the Pacific Northwest is as beautiful as ever, but our unnaturally warm weather this past winter has resulted in a significantly reduced snowpack for much of Washington. Statewide, the winter snowpack is only 22 percent of normal, which beat the record of 33 percent set in 2005.

Hardest hit is the Yakima basin and elsewhere in eastern Washington, which is seeing snow packs as low as 9% of normal rates. Because snow water melts and fills reservoirs to maintain water supply through the dry months, farmers will likely be the hardest hit. Water rationing and severe wildfires are seeming more and more likely for many parts of the state.

The good news, however, is that Seattle's drinking water will remain largely unaffected by the shortage. Both watersheds that supply the drinking water to the area's nearly 3 million residents were adjusted for the lack of snow. During winter flood management seasons, Seattle Public Utilities filled the reservoirs more than usual to preempt the project shortage going into the summer months. Redirecting rainfall rather than snowmelt allowed for this strategy, but the department's most recent Annual Drinking Water Quality Report hints that water conservation measures may come into effect in the future if municipal usage outpaces the supply.

Another positive note: Seattle's drinking water remains some of the cleanest and safest in the country, coming in well below the Environment Protection Agency's allowable limits in nearly every category. That doesn't mean homeowners with older houses shouldn't be concerned about the quality of their water, as lead and corroding pipes can cause problems for the sick and elderly. To get a comprehensive plumbing system assessment and learn how upgrading your home's plumbing could save you serious problems in the future, contact Pioneer Plumbing and Heating today.

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