U.S. Water News Online
SEATTLE -- Shorter showers, less frequent toilet flushing, and lawn watering at night are some of the measures being sought to cut water use by 10 percent following an unusually dry winter.
To dramatize the need at a news conference recently, Seattle Public Utilities officials distributed 5-minute egg timers to measure time in the shower.
With rainfall and mountain snowpacks close to 25-year lows, utilities director Diana Gale said officials would reassess the water situation in June to determine whether to restrict lawn watering to evening and nighttime hours, raise rates for heavy water use, or take other measures.
``I don't think we will if people respond to voluntary conservation,'' Gale said.
The city's water system, supplied by mountain reservoirs in the Tolt and Cedar river watersheds where the snowpack is at 65 percent of normal, extends to 26 jurisdictions with a total of 1.3 million residents in King and Snohomish counties.
Gale said the city is reluctant to raise water rates when electric rates are skyrocketing.
The water conservation campaign follows efforts to reduce electricity consumption by turning off lights, switching to more efficient light bulbs, and unplugging seldom-used appliances.
The dry winter has reduced the generating capacity at hydroelectric dams, forcing utilities to buy more power at vastly higher cost on the wholesale market.
``We are all responding to the energy crunch by using less electricity. Now, let's do it again with water,'' Gov. Gary Locke said. ``We can never underestimate the power of conservation.''
He also said every drop that is saved will help fish as well as people because low river flows are likely to disrupt the migration and spawning of severely depleted salmon and steelhead runs.
Some utilities outside the Seattle system also are seeking water conservation.
Residents of suburban Kent are getting mailings that ask them to water their lawns no more than every three days, and officials say mandatory restrictions may be considered next month.
John Kirner, Tacoma water deputy superintendent, said his system was in good shape because it relies partly on deep underground aquifers.
Everett's water supply outlook has improved considerably in recent weeks, partly because the town's reservoir is fed by a snowpack that is higher than the ones on which Seattle relies, said Marla Carter, a municipal spokeswoman,
Even so, Everett officials have put signs in buses asking residents not to waste water and are mailing a voluntary calendar with assigned days for lawn watering.
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