Rains take edge off water shortage, Tacoma says

Tacoma is easing out of its water shortage and is no longer asking residents to follow voluntary conservation guidelines issued last summer.

The autumn rainfall has allowed Tacoma, Seattle and Everett utilities to end the “voluntary” stage of water restrictions, and all three cities are shifting to the “advisory” stage. That means a supply problem could resurface and customers should still try not to waste water.

“Our improved condition today is due to the efforts of our customers to cut back, our staff’s response to the drought, the cooperation of our partners and the coordination with natural resource agencies,” said Bryan Flint, chair of Tacoma’s Public Utility Board, in a statement. “Thank you for your dedication to the resource we have in the Green River.”

Officials say 21 inches of rain have fallen in the Green River Watershed since Oct. 1, with six inches falling on Halloween weekend alone. Tacoma Water says it has stopped relying on wells for its water supply and has returned to taking water solely from the Green River, which is running well above normal flows.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is preparing to release the remaining water behind the Howard Hanson Dam into the Green River to prepare for flood season.

In early August, Tacoma and the other cities asked water customers to cut usage by 10 percent by voluntarily taking steps, such as letting their lawns go brown and watering trees and shrubs less often. It was the first time since 1992 that Tacoma had activated this second stage of its water management plan. That year, the city ultimately did ban lawn watering; this year, it did not reach that stage.

Tacoma Water supplies water directly to about 316,000 people in Tacoma, University Place, Ruston, and areas of unincorporated Pierce and South King counties.