MYNORTHWEST NEWS

‘Very concerning position’: Mercer Island nears crisis with water shortage

Jul 9, 2024, 10:16 AM | Updated: Jul 10, 2024, 12:26 pm

North resevoir water tank in Mercer Island. (Photo courtesy of Mercer Island)...

North resevoir water tank in Mercer Island. (Photo courtesy of Mercer Island)

(Photo courtesy of Mercer Island)

There is a real possibility that Mercer Island may run out of water soon.

With temperatures soaring and water usage hitting unprecedented levels, the island faces a critical water shortage and mandatory cutbacks may come as early as Tuesday.

The community’s reservoirs are depleting rapidly, and city officials say immediate action is required to prevent a severe emergency.

“We are in a very concerning position now,” City Manager Jessi Bon said on a Zoom meeting Monday. “Because of extreme heat, our water usage has spiked and is significantly exceeding supply. Water usage is depleting our reservoir tanks.”

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Over the weekend, water use surged to more than 6,000 gallons per minute, far exceeding normal peak consumption, the city noted on its website. Today, exceptionally high usage persists.

Officials said Mercer Island is receiving only 2,500 gallons per minute from a backup supply line — a maximum capacity for this pipe. Maintaining reservoir levels is crucial for water quality, safety and firefighting capabilities.

If consumption continues at this rate, the reservoirs will fall below the “fireband,” the minimum level required for firefighting, Bon explained.

“As we are in a water emergency, we need the community to take measures to avoid a crisis,” Mercer Island Mayor Salim Nice explained.

The mayor said that residents need to adjust their irrigation systems for lawns and landscaping.

“Let your lawn go dormant or brown if at all possible,” Nice said. “I think everybody knows I am a roll-up-your-sleeves kind of guy … (My lawn is) well on its way to low-maintenance mode.”

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Salim said residents and businesses must act swiftly to conserve water. Along with turning off automatic irrigation systems, officials recommended other steps.

  • Discuss water reduction with landscapers: Talk to landscaping providers about minimizing water use.
  • Limit laundry: Avoid doing laundry for the next two days.
  • Reduce shower water use: Take shorter showers.
  • Avoid washing vehicles: Skip car washes.
  • No pool or hot tub refills: Hold off on refilling swimming pools or hot tubs.
  • Turn off water features: Fountains and water features should be shut down.

Let’s Talk Mercer Island has put out a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) to help residents.

The city itself is cutting back on water usage by not washing official vehicles and cutting back on power washing projects. Officials said the next 24 to 48 hours are critical in determining whether mandatory water cutbacks will be put in place.

Editors’ note: A previous version quote about lawns attributed to Mercer Island Mayor Salim Nice has been adjusted.

Bill Kaczaraba is a content editor at MyNorthwest. You can read his stories here. Follow Bill on X, formerly known as Twitter, here and email him here

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‘Very concerning position’: Mercer Island nears crisis with water shortage