The City of Seattle manages two large, regional watersheds, the Cedar River and the Tolt. These regional watersheds supply Seattle and surrounding communities with drinking water and serve as a home for wildlife and salmon. The Habitat Conservation Plan and Wildland Fire Crew protect this pristine environment.

Slideshow Feature

How snow becomes our drinking water

Snow accumulated in our mountain watersheds assure a good supply of fresh water in the spring and summer. The water goes to our city as drinking water and serves species like salmon and steelhead trout.

  • As early as 1917 the City measured snow depth in the Upper Cedar River Watershed. This measuring tree near Bear Lake shows Seattle Water department employees recording 10 feet of snowpack that year.
  • Deep in the Cedar River canyon, Lower Cedar Falls is so remote that the only way to see it is by helicopter. During late winter and spring, snow surveys by SPU Watershed Protection staff are performed by helicopter to survey all the sites in one day throughout the upper Cedar and Tolt River watersheds.
  • Heavy winter snow accumulation in our mountain watershed assures a good supply of fresh water in the spring and summer for people and river resources such as salmon and steelhead trout.
  • Deep snow blankets the upper mountains near Chester Morse Lake in the Upper Cedar River Watershed.
  • This shows the annual and average amount of precipitation compared with the amount of water stored in the snow. Snow Water Equivalence is a measure that converts the weight of the snow to liquid water, providing an accurate survey of how much water is stored in the snowpack.
  • Watershed inspectors work together to perform a snow survey in the Upper Rex River basin. Their work supports the data collected from the Rex River Weather Station and Snotel site operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Water and Climate Center.
Photo of the watershed on a clear morning

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