Regional Water Supply
In the past, meeting the water needs of a growing region meant seeking out and developing new secure water sources. However, we now recognize that even in the Pacific Northwest, water is an increasingly precious commodity. This is true for us and our iconic salmon populations. Healthy salmon runs not only provide food for the table and sport-fishing opportunities, but are an important part of Native American culture and a requirement for reviving our failing Southern Resident orca population.
Water is also becoming increasingly precious because of the impacts of climate change. While the total volume of precipitation may not drastically change, the timing and amount of it falling as snow in the Green River Municipal Watershed is likely being impacted. This affects the availability of water. With less rain falling in the summer months to help meet in-stream flow requirements, less water is available for municipal and industrial uses.
Because it is a vital commodity, we need to be more thoughtful about how we use this limited resource. One approach is to develop water sources using a regional perspective. To do this, Tacoma Water entered into a partnership agreement with the City of Kent, Covington Water District and Lakehaven Water and Sewer District in 2002 to develop the Regional Water Supply System (RWSS). Through the RWSS, Tacoma Water developed the Second Supply Project, which enables us to store water during the spring so we can use it during the dry months. Through our existing water rights, we expect to meet our customers’ needs for 30 to 50 years..
Beyond this period, meeting future demands will likely require us to be more efficient with our water and to consider alternatives to finding new sources. One way to be more efficient is to learn about Tacoma Water’s Conservation Program. The program is currently developing strategies that customers can use to decrease water use during the summer when stream flows are low. Another way to increase efficiency is to reduce water loss through the our distribution system. To accomplish this, we are actively assessing our pipes to find and fix leaks.
Finding alternative sources may require us to explore water re-use technologies in addition to new sources. Communities in other parts of the nation and Washington state are including this approach in their plans for meeting our regions demands today and into the future.