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ISSAQUAH, WA-Thousands of acres of commercial and residential construction in the past several years has depleted this Eastside city’s water supply to the point of halting new development. Fortunately, new sources may not be too far away.

Sheldon Lynne, deputy director of public works and engineering for Issaquah, tells GlobeSt.com, “The city has a certain amount of water supply that has been granted from the State Department of Ecology — the amount of water we can use from the area’s aquifer. Based on those water rights, we have currently allocated (almost) all of that supply to provide for current development.”

There are, in fact, a few water rights to be had, but they are only sufficient for minor projects. “We have about 150-200 ERU that we have left in our ground water utility that have not been allocated. (An ERU being the amount of water expected to provide for a single residence.) However, to prevent those water rights from being guzzled by only a developer or two, the city has limited any new projects at this time to a maximum of 25 ERU. “The idea was to enable the supply to go a little longer and further,” says Lynne.

Major developments contributing to the current shortage include the master-planned communities of Issaquah Highlands and Talus. Together, the two have received rights to approximately 3,000 ERU’s worth of water—roughly enough to supply 3.7 million sf of commercial development, according to Lynne’s calculations.

The water utility drought should meet with some relief by the end of the year when a new 24″ pipe system, now under construction between Issaquah and Bellevue, is expected to be complete. The line will allow Issaquah to tap into Seattle’s water for a supplemental supply. “When that water reaches Issaquah,” says Lynne, “the ground water supply (from the Issaquah Highlands and Talus) will be granted back to the city as the pipeline will then provide for their needs.”

Issaquah has also joined the ranks of the Cascade Water Alliance (CWA), an organization committed to providing new and long-term supplies to its members. CWA and local utility Puget Sound Energy (PSE) are close to wrapping up a deal that would provide for the pumping of 65 million gallons daily from a reservoir south of Auburn. Under the plan, PSE would sell the Lake Tapps water to CWA, which would then re-sell it to members.

“This project,” says Lynne, “has lots of political and environmental factors that will probably make it a success. It is getting attention all the way up to the Governor (Locke)—all the way back to Washington D.C.”

Until the new projects and plans have been consummated, however, developers eyeing the Issaquah area are in for a long, dry season.

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