Seattle Water Quality: Yesterday
Early settlers of Seattle built Seattle’s first drinking water distribution system using open wooden flumes to pull water from Lake Washington. By the 1880s, private companies were developing more extensive systems to pump water from Lake Washington and Lake Union to small reservoirs and tanks in the growing city. However, The Great Fire of 1889 proved that these sources were inadequate to provide enough water for homes, businesses, and firefighting. Seattle residents voted overwhelmingly to build a system connected with the Cedar River, but it took more than a decade of legal wrangling to accomplish. Two new reservoirs, Volunteer and Lincoln (now Cal Anderson), were built to store water from the Cedar River. Seattle grew rapidly as tens of thousands of visitors and residents came to Seattle from the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in 1909. In response, city engineers constructed a larger pipeline from the Cedar River to triple the system’s delivery capacity. Seattle now had “surplus” water to be stored so in the 1910s the Masonry Dam was built. City engineers continued to construct pipelines and storage reservoirs, including the Bow Lake Reservoir, South Fork Dam, and Lake Forest Park Reservoir, to store the surplus water from the Cascades. In the late 1970s, city planners began to cover the open reservoirs to enhance water quality, reduce water loss from evaporation, and improve security.