Climate Change

High tides at Alki Beach
Rising sea levels are threatening coastal areas throughout Seattle, including Alki Beach.

SPU and Climate Change

SPU’s customers and essential services are impacted by and contribute to climate change. As climate change presents challenges to managing Seattle’s water and waste services, we are taking action to minimize impacts to and foster resilience for current customers and future generations:

  • We are prioritizing frontline communities and climate justice to help address racial, environmental, and health inequities that climate change may worsen.
  • We are mitigating carbon pollution from our operations and laying the groundwork for a circular economy to reduce citywide emissions through One Water and Zero Waste approaches.
  • We are adapting to new extremes in the water cycle, such as wetter winters and drier summers, through climate-informed planning and investment in drinking water, stormwater and wastewater systems, operations, and ecosystem services.

Learn more about climate action.

Climate Change Impacts to SPU Operations

Climate change is having a profound effect on our community and the world around us — impacting ecosystems, communities, and people’s health. Sea level rise, warmer air, a changing water cycle, and ocean acidification are impacting Seattle’s water and waste services.

SPU employee sweeping water on a downtown street

Sea Level Rise

Sea levels in Puget Sound have risen by nine inches since 1900 and are expected to rise by another two to five feet by 2100. This means more coastal flooding, storm surge and high tide inundation, shoreline erosion, rising groundwater levels and flood risks for infrastructure and facilities on Seattle’s coasts and shorelines.

Warmer Air

Average annual air temperature in Seattle has increased by 1.3 degrees F (Fahrenheit) since 1895 and is projected to be 5.5 degrees F warmer by 2050. This means acute heat and wildfire risks to SPU employees, Seattle residents, animals, and ecosystems.

Changing Water Cycle

Seattle is experiencing more heavy rain and storms in winter, and drier, hotter summers. Snowpack in the mountains is decreasing and melting earlier. Shifting streamflow levels; increasing stream temperatures; Increasing winter creek, river, and urban flood risks; and increasing summer droughts have extensive implications for stormwater, wastewater, and drinking water services.

Ocean Acidification

Puget Sound waters have increased in acidity by 25% since the Industrial Revolution. Acidity impacts the entire marine food chain, from phytoplankton to salmon to orca. The City of Seattle and SPU are working to address declining populations of salmon, steelhead and other fish and wildlife in the Cedar River Watershed, and ocean acidification creates additional challenges to this goal.

Public Utilities

Andrew Lee, General Manager and CEO
Address: 700 5th Avenue, Suite 4900, Seattle, WA, 98104
Mailing Address: PO Box 34018, Seattle, WA, 98124-5177
Phone: (206) 684-3000

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Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) is comprised of three major direct-service providing utilities: the Water Utility, the Drainage and Wastewater Utility, and the Solid Waste Utility.