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Water for People and Fish

Each Gallon Saved Keeps More Water in Our Rivers and Lakes for Fish and Wildlife

Spawning sockeye salmon in a shallow stream.
Seattle Public Utilities carefully manages the region’s water supply for both people and fish. The Utility releases water from the mountain reservoirs into rivers so fish can access habitat, spawn, and grow.

Did you know that conserving water for people also conserves water for fish?

Each fall, adult salmon and steelhead return from the ocean to freshwater rivers to spawn and lay eggs that will become the next generation of salmon. These adult fish need enough water in the river to complete their incredible journey to good spawning habitat, leading to the creation of their offspring.

a pod of orca in Elliot Bay.
When we save water to help salmon, we also help orca who rely on them for a food source.

At the heart of our water conservation efforts is support for our region’s fish populations. Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) has an established instream flow management program to provide beneficial conditions for salmon and steelhead in the Cedar River (Cedar River Habitat Conservation Plan) and South Fork Tolt River.  Salmon and steelhead that inhabit these rivers are a special concern when it comes to water.

Even during times when water supply is lower than average, as is the case currently for our region, SPU takes significant steps to safeguard salmon and steelhead in our rivers by:

  • Guaranteeing minimum flows in the river that consider what fish need to access habitat, spawn, and grow in the Cedar River.
  • Decreasing flows slowly, so fish and other aquatic organisms can sense the change and avoid getting trapped when flows decrease.

Your efforts to conserve water help make it possible to flow water to the rivers for fish to enjoy!

You can even see these fish returning to the river for yourself—programs such as the Salmon SEE-son offer self-guided opportunities to follow salmon up the Cedar River.

Thank you for your commitment to both people and nature by continuing to reduce your water use, which helps protect these remarkable fish populations.

Our water usage for the region continues to drop and we are inching closer to our goal of 100 million gallons per day (mgd) or less. As of October 30, our average daily consumption is 106 mgd.

Graph of historic average water usage, 2023 usage to date, and the regional goal, showing usage getting closer to the goal.

Wondering what else you can do to save water, especially now that we’ve stopped watering our yards and gardens?

Here are some ways to use less water:

  • If you have a dishwasher, use it! Washing by hand typically uses more water.
  • Shorten your shower. Save 2 gallons for every minute you shave off your shower.
  • Don’t leave the tap running. Turn off the water while shaving and brushing your teeth.
  • Use a broom. Sweep to clean patios and sidewalks instead of using a hose or power washer.
  • Run full loads. Wait to run your washing machine or dishwasher until it’s full.

Learn more

Check out our At Your Service blog for previous updates:

We encourage our customers to continue reducing their water usage. There are lots of different ways for all families and businesses to use less water. Go to the Saving Water Partnership or download our water-saving tips flyer in multiple languages

Stay tuned for our next update on the region’s water supply, which will be published on this blog on Monday, November 6.  For more details about the region’s water supply, check SPU’s Water Supply Conditions web pageupdated weekly.