Written by Uroosa Fatima, Multicultural Outreach Manager
Living in Seattle, I find it hard not to think about water. Whether it’s twinkling at me from across the bridge or attacking me from the sky, water finds a way to get noticed every day. Surrounded by all these glamorous bodies, I sometimes overlook the city’s best water feature: tap water. A fresh, cool stream that flows reliably whenever we need it.
But why does the tap water here taste so good? The greater Seattle area gets its water supply from two systems, the South Fork Tolt River watershed and the much bigger Cedar River Municipal Watershed. Both of these regions are heavily protected areas and allow minimal access to humans. The watersheds are kept as pristine as possible, so the water requires minimal treatment. Additionally, Seattle is unique among urban American cities for not repeatedly recycling its tap water, which elsewhere leads to flat-tasting water.
Recently, I got the chance to go see the Cedar River Municipal Watershed on a hike organized by ECOSS in partnership with Seattle Public Utilities (SPU). The aim of this hike was to introduce some of Seattle’s newer communities to the watershed that feeds their drinking supply. The diverse group included members from the Vietnamese, Chinese, East African and Pakistani communities.
After meeting with the park rangers at Cedar River Educational Center and learning the rules of conduct, the hikers were driven up to the restricted municipal watershed. The watershed is divided into two basins, the larger Chester Morse Lake and the smaller Masonry Pool, which was created as a result of the Masonry Dam. Following the guides the group walked along parts of the dam and saw how the structure is used to generate electricity and regulate water flow.
During their trip, hikers learned more about the function, history and ecology of the watershed from the rangers guiding the excursion. 1.4 million people in the region, and countless iconic species like the Northern spotted owl, Chinook salmon and Grizzly bear depend on this basin for a constant and pristine supply of water. This led to lively discussions among the group and the guides facilitated by multilingual ECOSS coordinators on topics like long term regional season patterns, drought conditions, and the historic importance of the watershed to native tribes.
At the end of the hike, the hungry group returned to the Educational Center for some Banh Mi sandwiches and rest. Many felt that the experience gave them a deeper understanding of where their drinking water comes from and what it takes to keep it clean.
Thank you Seattle Public Utilities for working with ECOSS to make this insightful trip possible!