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Drought Watch: Small Water Systems Could Run Dry

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The major water utilities in the Puget Sound area are telling customers the water supply is in good shape for the drought. But for thousands who depend on springs or shallow wells, the outlook is not as certain. 

More than two-thirds of the state’s population is served by big water systems. Take Seattle, Tacoma and Everett – their utilities have saved plenty of water in their extensive reservoir and storage systems. They’ve asked customers to conserve, but haven’t recommended any extreme measures. 

But according to Ginny Stern, a hydrogeologist with the State Department of Health, for nearly 27,000 people statewide, it’s a different story.

“There are a large number of very small systems that can’t connect to larger water supply, it wouldn’t be economically feasible. you can’t run the pipe run the pipe far enough," Stern said. 

Many rely on a single source for water or on shallow wells or springs.  Stern said it is possible that smaller systems could run out. (Read Stern's drought analysis here.)

"That’s why trying to stay ahead of it is such a big deal,” she said.

Stern says that means keeping an eye on water levels, improving capacity, and conservation.  Those vulnerable systems are sprinkled around even the wet part of the state. More than 170 are being watched in the Seattle-Tacoma-Everett area alone.   

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