Water Conservation Overview
Washington's legendary abundant supply of water in rivers, lakes, and aquifers that supports a multitude of recreational, residential, and industrial uses has, until very recently, been taken for granted. Water is no longer as available as it once was. Competing interests for fish and wildlife preservation, forest enhancement, recreation, municipal and industrial uses, agriculture, and hydropower all have a claim. Part of the solution to managing growth and ensuring adequate water in Washington's lakes and streams involves implementing water conservation measures. This page is the first page in a series of Water Conservation pages. It is an overview and provides links to water conservation information for Washington local governments. For comments or additions to this page contact the page editor.
The state experienced drought conditions in 1992, 2001, and 2005. In addition to water and energy shortages, local governments are also faced with increased fire risk due to potential drought conditions.
The state Department of Health (DOH) enacted water use efficiency regulations, effective in 2007, to conserve water for both the environment and future generations by requiring municipal water suppliers to use water more efficiently. The regulations support a mission of ensuring safe and reliable drinking water in the following ways: contribute to long-term water supply reliability and public health protection; promote good stewardship of the state's water resources; and ensure efficient operation and management of water systems. See DOH's Water Use Efficiency page.
The Growth Management Act and the Endangered Species Act have also focused attention on issues of water quality and quantity. Dwindling fish stocks and listings under the Endangered Species Act have heightened concern about unauthorized water use and compliance with water resources laws. See related pages:
Why Conserve Water?
Water conservation is an ongoing component of water resource management.
- The Washington State Department of Health's Municipal Water Conservation Analysis and Recommendations states:
Ensuring the efficient use of our limited water resources is a key component to the overall management of the state water resources and to salmon recovery efforts. Efficient water use benefits state natural resources by keeping as much water as possible in the natural environment. It also benefits water utilities and local governments by lowering water demands that may require costly new source development projects and by helping to ensure that water is available to meet economic and population growth consistent with local Growth Management Act planning efforts.
- Pressure on our state's water resources comes from many sources, including population growth, instream flows, business needs, and more recently issues related to climate change. As the potential for developing new sources of water within the state diminishes, the efficient use of water is necessary to meet future needs. Water Use Efficiency Guide Book (), 3rd edition, Washington State Department of Health, 2011 - Replaces the 1994 Conservation Planning Requirements publication (DOH Pub #331-008)
Federal Guidelines - Safe Drinking Water Act
Water Conservation Planning in Washington State
Responsibility for Conservation Program
The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) is the lead agency regarding conservation program development and planning for public water systems. The Department of Ecology (DOE) has the overall state responsibility for development and implementation of a comprehensive water conservation program that includes all water uses.
Water System Plans
Public water suppliers are required to develop and update a water system plan plan every six years that includes a water use efficiency program
Water Use Efficiency
In 2003, the Washington State Legislature passed the Municipal Water Supply - Efficiency Requirements Act, referred to as the Municipal Water Law. It directed the Department of Health (DOH) to develop significant new water use efficiency regulations for municipal water suppliers. The key components of the new requirements are: mandatory provisions for conservation plan; standards for water distribution system leakage; establishment of conservation goals in a public forum; and a conservation performance reporting system to show progress toward meeting conservation goals. The Water Use Efficiency Rule went into effect on January 22, 2007.
Relationship of Water Conservation to Salmon Restoration
"A basic need of fish is water. The more water taken from streams and groundwater, the less is available for fish passage and habitat." (Your Impact on Salmon/Fish: A Self-Assessment, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife)
Sample Conservation Plans from Water System Plans
Sample Water Conservation and Water Use Efficiency Policies
- Bellingham Resolution No. 2008-01 () - Adopts Water Use Efficiency Goals and Performance Measures, passed 01/14/2008
- Blaine Resolution No. 1212-98 () - Adopts a joint resolution to develop cooperative water conservation policies with Birch Bay Water District, passed 08/13/1998
- Bothell Resolution No. 1214 (2008) () - Adopts Water Saving Partnership goal of 1% per year, passed 03/04/2008
- Bremerton Resolution No. 3019 () - Establishes water efficiency goals for the water utility, passed 12/2006
- Issaquah Resolution No. 2008-02 () - Sets a water conservation goal of 51,000 gallons of water a day on an average annual basis and during the peak season 67,000 gallons of water a day by 2013, passed 01/28/2008
- North Beach Public Development Authority Resolution No. 14-2008 () - Adopts a water use efficiency goal, passed 09/2008
- Port Angeles Water Efficiency Program
- Saving Water Partnership Plan - A consortium of 18 water utilities implementing a 1% Water Conservation Initiative goal to reduce personal and business water consumption 1% every year for ten years.
- Climate Ready Water Utilities Resources, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - Provides links to non-EPA web sites that provide additional information about Climate ReadyWater Utilities
- National Drinking Water Clearinghouse
- Water Conservation Field Services Program, U.S. Department of Interior, Bureau of Reclamation
- Water Conservation - Be Water Smart, Not Water Short, Washington State Department of Ecology
- Partnership for Water Conservation - A public-private collaboration between concerned citizens, water utilities, businesses and environmental interests in the Puget Sound region
- Water Efficiency, Journal for Water Conservation Professionals - Forester Media
- Water Sense, Partnership program sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- Water Use Efficiency, Washington State Department of Health, Office of Drinking Water
- WaterWiser - Cooperative project of the American Water Works Association, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation