Seattle’s thirst is outpacing Mother Nature’s offerings, as the city, and indeed much of Washington State, grapples with an ever-intensifying drought. Until those welcome fall rains descend from the heavens, Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) is sending out an SOS to its customers, imploring them to be water-wise.
So, what’s the drill? SPU suggests we put our lawns on a water diet, curb those showers to quickies, and get those leaky pipes, faucets, and toilets fixed up pronto. They’re talking to an audience of roughly 1.5 million folks across the Seattle area here, and the water’s running scarce.
Alex Chen, the head honcho of SPU’s drinking water division, paints a sobering picture. An early melt of last winter’s snowpack, coupled with a stingy summer rainfall, has left the utility’s water reserves dwindling like a vanishing mirage.
Take a peek at their reservoirs – they’re gasping for relief, holding onto less than 30% of their usual liquid bounty, a far cry from what’s considered normal this time of year. Mother Nature needs to make amends, and there’s some hope on the horizon with recent showers and a forecast that hints at more.
But don’t start celebrating just yet, folks. These watersheds, the lifeblood of SPU’s reservoirs, usually slurp up about 26 inches of rain between May and September. This year? A measly 7 or 8 inches. It’s a rain dance gone awry.
Washington State, in its entirety, is singing the same parched tune. The drought, born in the sweltering summer months, is now spreading like wildfire. The authorities slapped a “drought advisory” sticker on it back in July, and just a few weeks later, it graduated to a “drought emergency” across 12 counties. Things have taken a turn for the worse since then.
As we speak, nearly 10% of the state is swimming in the deep end of an “extreme” drought, while over 43% is getting a taste of the “severe” drought cocktail, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor’s latest report. A mere 6% of the state’s landmass is spared the dry torment.
Buckle up, because the hot, dry spell is set to extend its stay into fall and winter, courtesy of El Niño nudging warm, tropical air into the Pacific Northwest. But zooming out, we’re looking at climate change, the grand puppeteer pulling the strings of these increasingly scorching summers and wickedly intense droughts, all fueled by the unrelenting consumption of fossil fuels.
Should things keep heading south, SPU has a Plan B – mandatory water restrictions. The last time they pulled that trigger? Way back in 1992. Nobody’s eager to revisit those memories, that’s for sure.
But here’s the brighter side of things: SPU usually keeps it chill with voluntary cutbacks, and, interestingly, it’s worked like a charm six times since the ’80s. When the customers heed the call, even Seattle’s Parks and Rec department chips in, sipping less water, just like good neighbors should.