Updated August 22, 2023
While these FAQs include expected frequently asked questions, the City will add to it as additional questions come in from the community.
The City currently has 3 water sources. There are two production water sources, which are:
Due to Centennial Well’s location in the area of influence of both the Middle and South Forks of the Snoqualmie River, water used from the well is required to be compensated drop-for-drop by other sources into the River only at times when the Snoqualmie River, downstream of the City, is below the ‘Base In-stream Flow’ as defined by the City’s Centennial water right agreement. In-stream river flows are measured at three different points along the Snoqualmie River near Fall City, Carnation, and Monroe. When the in-stream flow is below the Department of Ecology’s level determined necessary to maintain River health and the City is pumping water from Centennial, then the City is required to add mitigation water to Snoqualmie River. Mitigation is typically needed approximately 80-100 days per year. The number of mitigation days could increase in the future due to climate change.
Hobo Springs is the City’s active mitigation source and has met the City’s mitigation needs. The City purchases Hobo Springs mitigation water from Seattle Public Utilities. Hobo Springs is located upstream of Rattlesnake Lake in the protected Cedar River Watershed. Mitigation Water is delivered via pipe from Hobo Springs to Boxley Creek which feeds into the South Fork Snoqualmie River.
During nearly the past decade, City staff have been evaluating many potential water mitigation sources including the Cascade Golf Course property, a Hobo Springs Expansion, a Chester Morse Reservoir pipeline, a Tolt Reservoir pipeline, small and/or large mitigation water reservoirs, and a potential inter-tie water supply agreement with Sallal, among others. Hobo Springs expansion has occurred, but other mitigation sources have been deemed infeasible, primarily due to the 2015 State Supreme Court’s Foster decision*.
*In 2015, the State Supreme Court issues a decision on Foster v. Ecology, City of Yelm, and Washington Pollution Control Hearings Board. The decision, frequently referred to as the “Foster Decision,” stated that water right mitigation must address instream flow impairment both in-time and in-place.
Since mitigation was required by the Department of Ecology in 2007, 2015 was the only year that the City would have needed to use a second, backup mitigation source, due to lower-than-usual snowfall in the mountains during the preceding winter, limited spring snowpack, and warmer, drought-like, summer weather. The 2015 mitigation water violation prompted the following over the course of the next several years:
In 2019, the mitigation water violation was due to a flow meter equipment installation error. This was corrected and the mitigation water volume that had not been added because of the error was added as soon as the flow meter installation was found and corrected. This correction occurred approximately 30 days after the event in a time of year that had lower Snoqualmie River baseflows.
The City supplies approximately 200 million gallons of water annually for its City customers. The City replaces an additional 20 million gallons on average annually back into the Snoqualmie River to meet the Department of Ecology’s mitigation requirements. This mitigation water is added to the 600 billion gallons of water that flow through the Snoqualmie River on an average annual basis. Thus, the annual mitigation water volume that the City supplies is equal to 0.000033 (0.0033%) of the total Snoqualmie River water volume. (See comparison chart below)
Every large water system has leaks, and the City is working diligently to reduce leaks in its system to the standard of 10% set by the Department of Health. To monitor leaks across the system, the City has taken the following steps:
In July 2022, the City was just above the target goal of 10% DSL goal at 10.9%. Moving forward, the City will continue to take the steps stated above to find leaks across our approximately 40-mile water main system, and make adjustments as needed.
None currently. North Bend's Centennial Well Water Right permit was issued after water rights laws changed, including minimum in-stream flow levels that were established on the Snoqualmie River. Older water rights - even if those water sources impact the River - do not have to supply mitigation water like the City of North Bend does.
First and foremost, water conservation is the right thing to do for the environment. Snoqualmie River, unlike many major rivers in Washington State, is not dammed. Lacking a dam that provides flood control, this means there is a higher standard deviation of river flows during the year. During winter storms, the river flow is very high. In contrast, in early fall, the river flow can be quite low. Water conservation measures are intended to keep the river healthy and are supplemented through water mitigation by the City. By decreasing water usage during this peak time of usage, less mitigation water is needed for the Snoqualmie River - which protects the river’s natural health and saves customers money on their bills.
The WCO starts with education and voluntary compliance with the usage guidelines. This includes the automatic stage 1 conservation measures which go into effect beginning each year in August. The WCO is foremost an educational tool, and the City is a proponent of educating residents on water conservation. However, if water usage that violates the WCO is noticed and/or reported, violators can expect to hear from the City.
Yes, because the City believes that water conservation is the right thing to do. In fact, the City hopes more cities in the Puget Sound region follow North Bend’s lead in water conservation. We are pleased to see the City’s overall water usage decline since enacting the WCO several years ago and actively engaging in water conservation education with residents.
North Bend property owners have the constitutional right to develop their property as long as all legal zoning and development requirements are followed. The City is also legally required to provide water to those properties if it is available – e.g. the City has a legal ‘duty to serve.' North Bend is a beautiful place to live, which makes land desirable for new homes and businesses. Nearly everyone residing in North Bend lives in a home that was once forested or farmland.
The Water Supply Agreement (WSA) meets both the City of North Bend and Sallal Water Association’s needs. Under the WSA, Sallal will provide up to 100 acre feet/year as an additional Department of Ecology-approved mitigation water source for the City by obtaining water from Rattlesnake Wells. The City will provide additional water to Sallal from the Centennial Well or Mt. Si Springs to enhance Sallal’s water supply to their current and future members, based on Sallal’s needs.
Visit the East North Bend Water Update webpage for graphics that illustrate how the WSA will work: East North Bend Water Update.
On June 6, 2023, the North Bend City Council voted unanimously to approve a resolution authorizing an agreement for the wholesale supply of domestic water to Sallal Water Association and mitigation water to the City of North Bend. This was the second and final reading of this resolution, which came after nearly two decades of work on the part of the City and Sallal.
After City Council’s approval, Mayor McFarland and Sallal Board President Denise Smutny, signed the Water Supply Agreement (WSA) in the presence of Council and the Sallal board members in attendance.
With a fully approved and signed WSA, the City and Sallal will be able to meet the water needs of all residents, while also meeting the City’s mitigation requirements for the Snoqualmie River. By sharing water, the two entities help ensure a more reliable water system with guaranteed availability and support future community planning requirements under Washington State’s Growth Management Act.
Under this WSA, Sallal’s Rattlesnake Wells will serve as an additional mitigation water source for the City, and the City will sell domestic water to Sallal from the Centennial Well or Mt. Si Springs to increase the availability to Sallal’s members and vacant properties.
Next steps include the engineering design phase to build a domestic intertie and a mitigation intertie. These will serve as the means to share water, allowing the City to sell domestic water to Sallal, and allowing Sallal to sell mitigation water to the City. While these interties are anticipated to cost between $1-$2M dollars, both Sallal and the City have worked closely with the State legislature to obtain funding for construction from the State.
Yes, the City has successfully reached agreements with Seattle Public Utilities to share water, and with the City of Snoqualmie to share municipal services, such as police and public works. In addition, the City has agreements in place with other utilities including Tanner Electric, Puget Sound Energy, and more.
A WSA benefits City and Sallal customers for the following reasons:
The WSA does not change the governance structure of either the City or Sallal.
* The Growth Management Act (GMA) is a series of state statutes, first adopted in 1990, that requires cities and counties to develop a comprehensive plan every 10 years to manage their population growth. The comprehensive plan creates growth management areas within a City for concentrated urban growth.
Yes. The City has 3,430-acre feet of water rights. The City uses approximately 650-acre feet of water per year and has adequate potable water supply to provide Sallal additional water capacity for their current and future customers.
Yes, Sallal providing up to 100 acre feet/year of Department of Ecology-approved mitigation water from Rattlesnake Wells ensures that the City can meet its environmental and legal commitments to the health of the Snoqualmie River and comply with the Growth Management Act (GMA).*
*The Growth Management Act (GMA) is a series of state statutes, first adopted in 1990, that requires fast-growing cities and counties to develop a comprehensive plan every 10 years to manage their population growth. The comprehensive plan creates growth management areas within and adjacent to a City for concentrated urban growth.
The City offered to purchase Sallal in August 2022, after Sallal entered an emergency moratorium, to ensure that all businesses, schools, and homes in the City had safe and accessible water when they needed it. At the time, 16 years of negotiations on a water supply agreement (WSA) had stalled and the City believed that consolidation was the best option.
While the City offered to purchase Sallal, the City stated that it was still willing to consider entering into a WSA on terms that would protect the City’s system and ensure an accessible water supply for the residents of North Bend.
After Sallal’s emergency moratorium was lifted, in late 2022, the City and Sallal resumed negotiations on a WSA and have developed a draft WSA for City Council and Sallal Board’s consideration. This draft WSA meets both the City and Sallal’s needs and would ensure that each home, business, and school in the City and Sallal’s water service area has water when they need it now and into the future.