Water FAQ

Updated April 17, 2023

While these FAQs include expected frequently asked questions, the City will add to it as additional questions come in from the community.

water supply agreement FAQs

1. what does the draft water supply agreement include?

The draft water supply agreement (WSA) meets both the City of North Bend and Sallal Water Association’s needs. Under the draft WSA, Sallal would 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 would 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 would work, if approved, by the City and Sallal: East North Bend Water Update | North Bend, WA - Official Website

2. what steps do the city and sallal need to take to approve the draft water supply agreement?

The North Bend City Council and Sallal Board of Directors both must approve the Water Supply Agreement before it can go into effect (see graphic below). 

If approved, Sallal and the City will work together to construct two interties that will connect the two systems and enable them to share water. 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.

Water Supply Agreement Process Infographic 2023

3. has the city successfully reached agreements to provide other services and utilities?

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. 

4. How will a water supply agreement benefit city and sallal water customers?

A WSA benefits City and Sallal customers for the following reasons:

  1. Better for the environment: The addition of a Department of Ecology-approved mitigation water source at Rattlesnake Wells helps the City better meet its environmental and legal commitment to the health of the Snoqualmie River, particularly as temperatures fluctuate due to climate change.
  2. A more reliable system with guaranteed availability: Combining systems ensures that any business, school, or home throughout both the City and Sallal’s water service area will have water when they need it. 
  3. Planning for the future: In 1990, the State adopted the Growth Management Act (GMA)*. All cities in King County, including North Bend, are required to comply with the GMA.  Without new water supply, potential new businesses (restaurants, grocery stores, and other amenities) and multi-family residences will not have the water supply they need, and the requirements of the GMA will not be met.

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.

5. does the city have adequate potable water supply to provide water to sallal in the water supply agreement?

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. 

2022 Water Capacity, City of North Bend and Sallal Water Association

6. will the water supply agreement provide the city with enough water to satisfy mitigation requirements to the snoqualmie river?

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.

7. why did the city make an offer to purchase sallal?

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.

Line Graphic

GEneral City Water FAQs

1. What are the City's water sources?

The City currently has 3 water sources.  There are two production water sources, which are: 1) Mt Si Springs, a spring-fed water source near Mount Si; and 2) Centennial Well, which is a groundwater well located at the City’s Public Works facility. Centennial is the newer of the city’s two water sources.  The third water source is solely for mitigation water use and it’s called Hobo Springs.  

2. What is mitigation water?

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.

3. What are the City's mitigation water sources?

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.   

4. What other mitigation sources has the City studied?

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.

5. can the city share additional information about its mitigation water use in 2015 and 2019?

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:

  1. The City created a new Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) employment position on staff who provides improved software monitoring and programming. For example, this position helps adjust pumping between Centennial Well and Mt. Si Springs.
  2. The City installed a variable frequency drive at Mt. Si Springs so that the City could maximize the use of its water right at Mt. Si Springs when water is available, rather than pumping water from Centennial Well which can trigger mitigation depending on the flow of the Snoqualmie River.
  3. The City contracted with USGS (United Sates Geological Services) to know the exact water level every day of Masonry Pool at Chester Morse Reservoir. The daily flow at nearby Hobo Springs, the City’s mitigation source, is dependent on the water depth at Masonry Pool.
  4. The City instituted a Water Conservation Ordinance in which Stages 2 and 3, when triggered, will decrease required water mitigation demand.

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.

6. how much water does the city mitigate, on average, to protect the snoqualmie river?

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)

Average Annual Mitigation Water Use, City of North Bend, 10.04.22

7. how is the city making progress to reduce its distribution system leakage (dsl)?

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 2014, the City began a robust program to replace 14.5 miles of old, asbestos concrete (AC) watermains with more durable ductile iron water mains. Existing old, AC watermains are past their useful design life and the City has replaced approximately 32% or 4.7 miles of AC watermains since 2013, and is systematically replacing the remaining 9.8 miles of AC watermain.  
  • In 2020, the City implemented a more intensive ongoing citywide leak survey to identify and repair water leaks found. 
  • In 2020, the City began a water meter replacement program to replace customer water meters. The City has replaced approximately 60% of customer water meters and anticipates completing replacement by the end of 2024.

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.

8. do other cities in the snoqualmie valley have to mitigate water?

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.

9. why is a water conservation ordinance (WCO) needed?

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.

10. does the city actively enforce the wco?

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 on August 15th. 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. 

11. if the city did not have to mitigate water, would there be a wco?

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. 

12. why is there not a building moratorium in north bend?

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.