In the late 1800s, Seattle’s water supply was pumped from Lake Washington and piped through hollow wooden logs into the city. After Seattle’s great fire, it was apparent that this water source did not meet the growing population’s needs.
In early 1900’s, Seattle piped water from the Cedar River watershed. It flowed to Seattle via gravity while filters removed the sticks and leaves. Later, in the 1960s, the Cedar River watershed was purchased by the City of Seattle so that it could be protected and conserved. As a result, cutting of nearby forests halted and the water supply was cleaner.
Also in the 1960s, water from the Tolt River was added to supplement Seattle’s water supply. Seattle now owns the water rights to much of the Tolt River watershed.
Both the Cedar and Tolt rivers originate from snow melt in the Cascade Mountains, east of Seattle. And, both rivers have been long time salmon habitats. Native peoples depended on these rivers for fish and drinking water, as we all do now.
Safety and Conservation
Seattle’s water is clean and naturally filtered. Fluoride, chlorine, and other water quality treatments are provided at the Cedar and Tolt facilities to ensure water safety. In addition, several water conservation awareness programs helped Seattle residents become aware of where their water comes from and how to use less. Examples are turning off the faucet when brushing your teeth, and collecting rain water in barrels for later use in outdoor watering.
For more information and pictures about Seattle’s water supply origins, see this History Link.org.
The City of Seattle’s website has lots of great information on our water and where it comes from.
Also, take time to visit the Cedar River Watershed Education Center to learn more about Seattle’s water history and over 9000 years of human habitat in our area.