water

California’s prolonged drought has led to millions of dead trees that could make tinder boxes of huge swaths of the state as it heads into fire season. But the American West isn’t the only place coming to grips with chronic drought.

The World Resources Institute mapped water stress around the world and found major regions of every inhabited continent have serious issues with water. Here & Now‘s Peter O’Dowd gets an overview of drought crises around the world from Betsy Otto, director of the World Resources Institute’s Global Water Program.

Early this winter, skiers in the Northwest were excited. But then after about Christmas things turned dour. The once-epic snowpack is now long gone. In Washington state, it melted down in record time to less than half of average for early June.

And there hasn’t been much rain this spring either. The Cascades, Olympics and Blues are all hurting.

We often associate climate change with too much water — the melting ice caps triggering a rise in sea levels. Now a new World Bank report says we also need to think about too little water — the potable sort.

More than two-thirds of voters in Oregon's Hood River County passed a local ban on commercial water bottling in Tuesday’s election.

The measure was designed to block Nestle’s plans to build a $50 million water bottling plant in the city of Cascade Locks.

Backers of the measure are calling their victory a landslide, and a triumph of David over Goliath. But so far, Nestle and its supporters say they're ready to accept that narrative.

File Photo of an old water fountain.
Flickr Photo/Paul Domenick (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/dqusC4

Washington lawmakers want to step up efforts to keep lead out of school drinking water. But the state won't pay for school water quality tests until at least fall of 2017.


About three feet of snow covered the summit of Chinook Pass in 2015. That was an exceptionally light snow year for Washington.
WSDOT blog

The unusually warm spring has let gardeners do some early planting, but it signals problems ahead for Washington farmers. The warm weather is causing snow in the mountains to melt faster than normal.


Utility crews in Seattle and Tacoma are on the hunt for lead goosenecks.


"I will not rest, and I'm going to make sure that the leaders at every level of government don't rest until every drop of water that flows to your homes is safe to drink, and safe to cook with, and safe to bathe in," President Obama told an energetic audience in Flint, Mich. "Because that's part of the basic responsibilities of a government in the United States of America."

CASCADE LOCKS – Klairice Westley stoops at the edge of a spring in the woods above the Oxbow Fish Hatchery.

"Want to get a drink?" she asks.

She dips a cupped hand into the pool of water and takes a sip.

"Oh, that's good water,"she says. "That's the best."

Westley lives nearby in Cascade Locks and also belongs to the Grand Ronde and Warm Springs tribes. She says drinking from Oxbow Springs is more than a tradition among tribal members – it’s a religious rite.

Bill Radke talks with (Tacoma) News Tribune reporter Debbie Cafazzo about the presence of lead in the drinking water at six schools in the Tacoma School District. Radke also talks with Tacoma resident Elizabeth Rudge. Her home is one of 1,700 that may have lead in the water supply.

Seattle Public Utilities says its dams are about three-quarters full.
Flickr photo/Konstantin Stepanov (CC BY 2.0)

Recent, routine tests in Seattle Public Schools found that 49 schools had at least one faucet with lead levels above the district’s acceptable limit.

The district’s lead threshhold is stricter than federal standards: 10 parts per billion, compared to 20.

Screenshot of the water service map.
Seattle Public Utilities

Seattle Public Utilities staff explained their advice for residents to the Seattle City Council on Monday.

Here are the takeaways:

What's the problem? Is Seattle's drinking water safe?

File Photo of an old water fountain.
Flickr Photo/Paul Domenick (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/dqusC4

Utility officials in Seattle say residents should turn on the faucet for a few minutes if the water hasn't run for six hours. The precaution comes after high levels of lead were found in water lines connected to four Tacoma homes.

The early heat wave across most of the Northwest is forecast to start winding down Wednesday. It might have felt nice while it lasted, but the unusual warmth --record-setting, in some cases-- compounded the rapid melting of the Northwest's precious mountain snowpack.

When winter officially ended last month, snow measurements showed near normal to above normal snowpack across the Northwest. In four short weeks though, the snowpack in Oregon, Washington and Idaho has significantly eroded.

In the mornings, Jeff Mastrandea waits a good 30 seconds after turning on his faucet. He also makes sure to drink from a filter. He does this because his water is sometimes laced with unsafe levels of lead. He wants to let any water with the toxic metal drain out before he takes a drink.

When the famously pure water from Portland’s Bull Run Watershed sits overnight in the copper plumbing of his 1984 Gresham home, it corrodes the lead solder that fuses those pipes together.

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