Hot weather forces Tacoma to activate water shortage response plan

Historic low river levels combined with record-setting hot and dry weather that have significantly increased the demand for water have led Tacoma, Everett, and Seattle to implement the first stage of their water shortage response plans.

The first stage in each city’s response plan is “advisory” and issued when utilities believe a potential water supply problem may exist. During this time, the three cities are asking customers to carefully manage their water use and make sure they are not wasting water by watering early or late (before 8 a.m. or after 7 p.m., which reduces evaporation); watering deeply, but infrequently (it’s better to have one or two deep waterings, rather than several shallow waterings); fixing leaks such as at faucets, hose bibs, sprinkler spray heads, and silent toilet leaks; washing vehicles at locations that recycle their water; using a broom, rather than a hose, to clean sidewalks, driveways, and patios; and waiting until your clothes washer and dishwasher are full before starting. More water-saving tips are online at

“With the help of our customers, diligent monitoring, and coordination with natural resource agencies, we believe we can make it through this extraordinary year with enough water to meet the needs of people and fish,” said Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland.

According to Tacoma Water officials, Tacoma’s normal use of the Green River for summer demands is being heavily augmented with groundwater wells in this unusual year of hot and dry weather. This shift allows water stored from the Green River to be primarily dedicated to protecting fish. Although Tacoma’s modeling shows supplies adequate to meet instream flow and customer demands, initiating the first state of the Water Shortage Response Plan aims to provide a cushion.

Tacoma has a robust water supply that allows the utility to meet customer needs for water and contribute to healthy fish populations, according to Tacoma Water officials. However, available supplies this year have declined more quickly than is typical. Activating the response plans is a prudent management step given current conditions and supply outlook. If conditions worsen, each city may move to the “voluntary” phase of water shortage response and ask customers to reduce the amount of water they normally use each day.

Tacoma Water supplies water directly to about 316,000 people in Tacoma, University Place, Ruston, and areas of unincorporated Pierce and south King counties. The utility also serves relatively small areas within the cities of Puyallup, Fircrest, Lakewood, and Bonney Lake. Through wholesale connections, Tacoma Water serve water to people in Auburn, Bonney Lake, Fife, Puyallup, and parts of Pierce and King counties.

A weekly report on Tacoma’s water supply is available online here.