Tacoma Water celebrates Drinking Water Week May 5-11, 2024

Keeping you informed about your water

We know that having safe, reliable, clean water is vitally important, and it’s something we take very seriously here at Tacoma Water. In celebration of Drinking Water Week and in the spirit of transparency, we are welcoming members of the public to our May 8th Public Utility Board Meeting to ask their questions about our water quality and supply.

Can’t attend in person? Use our question form below.


Safe, reliable water for you is our highest priority 

Supplying you and your family with safe and reliable drinking water is our highest priority. Along with ensuring public health, maintaining water quality enhances our quality of life, supports the region’s economy and protects natural resources. 

To accomplish all this, Tacoma Water exceeds federal regulations regarding the testing of our drinking water. For example, federal rules require that we test our water supply for more than 80 regulated contaminants and more than 50 unregulated chemicals, even if they do not exist in our water. 

We also take weekly samples from throughout our water distribution system to check for bacteria and adequate chlorine levels. While the Washington State Department of Health requires us to take 150 samples per month, we routinely take more than 200. 

To ensure safe and reliable water, we collect weekly samples for testing from strategic points around our distribution system. This ensures when water gets to your home, it’s as safe as when it left our facility.  

Maintaining water quality for our customers 

Tacoma Water operates several wells within the South Tacoma Groundwater Protection District; however, 95+% of the drinking water for Tacoma and our surrounding communities comes from an abundant supply in the Green River Watershed. The water we provide our customers is filtered at the Green River Watershed before traveling through more than 1,400 miles of well-maintained water main systems to provide more than 6.5 billion gallons per year to approximately 110,000 taps in the metro area. 

The wells in South Tacoma are supplied from an aquifer that extends as far south as the Roy and Fredrickson area. These wells are used primarily as a backup water source for the Green River supply during drier summer months when demand is at its highest. In a normal weather year, these groundwater wells currently supply only 5% of Tacoma Water’s total annual water requirements. 

What about the Bridge Industrial project water quality concerns? 

We’ve recently received questions from customers about a planned development project located in the South Tacoma Groundwater Protection District. While this project is located near our property, it is a project led by an independent private company that is working directly with the City’s Planning and Development Services in the permitting process, which includes evaluating potential environmental impacts. As a public utility, TPU has a responsibility to supply water service to all customers in our service area regardless of business or customer type including both public and private. Any decision-making about the project was not within the authority of TPU or its operating divisions. 

Tacoma Water protects these groundwater wells by carefully monitoring activities in the areas that drain into them. We partner with the Tacoma Pierce County Health Department to perform periodic inspections of businesses to ensure safe handling and storage of potential contaminants. We also conduct regular sampling of monitoring wells to check for early signs of potential contaminants before they reach our wells. 

Does Tacoma have enough water despite changes to our climate? 

As of May 6th, our water supply was ample. The first half of April was very dry, but it has been wetter and cooler recently, which helps water supply.  Snowpack peaked in March with about half of average snow accumulation in the Green River watershed.  River levels remain below normal.  Although a drought was recently declared for most of Washington State, Tacoma’s municipal supply remains adequate to meet our anticipated consumption needs.  We will continue to monitor river recession rates and overall water supply as we transition into summer usage patterns; spring rainfall may improve conditions in May.  El Niño conditions are weakening but remain present, which statistically trend toward warmer and drier weather in Washington.  Current ENSO forecasts show La Niña may develop by late summer or early fall.  Daily water consumption is below our winter average.  We continue to recommend customers use water wisely. 

Our water resource engineers monitor the health of our water supply daily. Multiple agencies also report daily snow depth, snow water equivalent, accumulated precipitation, Eagle Gorge Reservoir storage quantities, and Green River inflow and observed runoff. We compile this into the Water Supply Index model and produce an overall score. These scores are then compared to history (usually 30 to 60 years). We also monitor the weather models from the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center, including temperature precipitation forecasting and weather anomalies such as El Nino and La Nina. 

In addition to maintaining adequate supplies for general water use, Tacoma participates in a fisheries resource management group with federal, state, and local jurisdictions to safeguard our native salmon and steelhead species in the Green River. A portion of Tacoma’s storage reserves is used for this purpose each year. 

In particularly challenging years, we use the South Tacoma Wellfield to supplement our water supplies. This enables us to reserve adequate storage for augmenting natural stream flows and maintaining healthy fish habits.

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