Water Conservation Resources For The Pacific Northwest

By Steve Causseaux | A native to the Pacific Northwest United States, Steve has spent the past 10 years working in water management for irrigation, waterworks, and construction.

A question on the Family Feud game show:  “Name the rainiest city in the United States.”  Clock is ticking! TIME’S UP! What did you guess? Was it Mobile, AL?  (Average Annual Rainfall:  67 Inches) Perhaps it was New Orleans?  (Average Annual Rainfall:  64 Inches) Could it be Miami?  (Average Annual Rainfall:  62 Inches) What about Portland, OR?  (Average Annual Rainfall:  42 Inches) It must be Seattle.  (Average Annual Rainfall:  38 Inches) Survey says… SEATTLE! The number one answer on the board! Why do most people say, “Seattle”?  Well, it takes an average of 154 days per year for all 38” of rain to fall in Seattle.  Portland, OR isn’t much different with all 42” of rainfall occurring over 150 days in a year.  By contrast, the 62” of rainfall for Miami takes a mere 57 days to fall. The rain (or mist and drizzle) takes FOR-EV-ER to fall in the Pacific Northwest. This was a typical weather forecast in December 2015:

The sister cities of “Cascadia” are just now coming off of a record setting December. Rainfall during a normal Portland December is 5.2 inches.  However Portland nearly drowned under 15+ inches of rain in December 2015!  This is the most December rainfall in the city since 1996. With nearly half the year drenched in wetness and constant cloudy/rainy weather, does Cascadia care about water conservation?  Well, we haven’t mentioned anything about summer rains in the Pacific Northwest.

Fun fact of the day

The fun fact of the day is that Pacific Northwest summers are filled with gorgeous nonstop sunny days with both cities taking the top two spots for best summer travel destinations. For irrigation and water conservation purposes however, summers in the Pacific Northwest are a bit too gorgeous.  Most of July (after the 4th of course), August, and much of September are bone dry. Consider the summer of 2015.  Portland and Seattle both broke all sorts of (Seattle) dry weather records.   (Portland) dry weather records. Combine this with the abnormally warm winter of 2014-2015, and the region is still facing drought conditions even with the sudden December deluge. Despite the rain, long term irrigation sustainability in the Pacific Northwest relies on snowpack and glaciers filling rivers and reservoirs throughout the dry summer.  The period between November 2014 – March 2015 provided plenty of warm rain but nothing in the form of frozen precipitation in the mountains.  Some of the ski resorts on Mt. Hood near Portland not only never opened; some did not see any snow accumulation at all!  In fact the glaciers and snow pack on Mt. Hood receded more in 2015 than any time in the past 35 years. Mt. Rainier, near Seattle, wasn’t much different with its snow pack dropping to its lowest point in history.  While Portland and Seattle seem to receive too much rain, it’s these dry “beautiful” summers that demand our water conservation efforts.

Water conservation resources PNW

What can be done to help save water during irrigation season in Seattle, Portland, and all of those much dryer regions east of the Cascades? Both cities provide plenty of resources to landscape professionals to help save water, and offer tips on improving overall irrigation techniques.  (See below to access these resources.) According to Molly McDowell, co-owner and designer at North of South Landscapes in Oregon, “It’s not just about the water that is being put on one landscape.  Take a step back and look at the bigger picture incorporating infrastructure and the total number of landscapes that are being irrigated at the same time in the dead of summer.  This strains natural resources and the overall supply system which delivers this resource to its intended application”. The recent record wet (and cold) December in 2015 is encouraging for us here in the Pacific Northwest. It began rebuilding the snowpack in the mountains and began filling reservoirs, but it’s still not enough to bring our totals back to normal.  January’s forecast shows the opposite of December… consecutive “gorgeous” days. Pardon us as we all scramble to find our sunglasses, #prayforrain, and then go wash our cars.

Water conservation resources (links)for Seattle and Portland:

Water conservation in Seattle. Guide to watering smartin Seattle. Guide for Landscape Professionals in Seattle: Guide for water efficiency in Portland. Portland Water Bureau’s Outdoor Water Efficiency Guide, includes irrigation rebate opportunities. If you enjoyed this post follow CIMCO on twitter or check out our website.


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