Healthy Environment

Fresh Air, Clean Water, & Zero Waste
Seattle's bountiful natural resources are profound not only in their stunning beauty, but in the impacts they have on our community health. We prioritize keeping our air and water clean and reducing waste so future generations will continue to enjoy a healthy, safe, and clean city.

Unfortunately, the level to which Seattle residents experience our environmental benefits varies widely by race. Due to our historical land use patterns, the majority of residents who live closest to our city's heavily trafficked roadways are people of color and people with low incomes and thus, experience poorer air quality compared to the rest of Seattle.

The quality of our drinking water is excellent thanks to our well-managed watersheds. However, our major bodies of water--the Puget Sound and Seattle's only river, the Duwamish River--are polluted from stormwater runoff and historical industrial pollution. Through regional partnerships, Seattle is advancing solutions to reduce pollution in both waterways. Their health is critical to supporting and protecting the cultural traditions and economic livelihood of many Seattle residents, especially indigenous communities in our region.


Calendar pages showing 15 days air quality goals not met

Air Quality

Goal: Track air quality and mitigate pollutants
In 2018, we had 15 days over the health goal in the City of Seattle (9 of which were during the August wildfire smoke days)

Air quality is monitored and air quality regulations are enforced through the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency. As smoke events become more frequent, the City of Seattle is working with multiple partners including the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, Seattle-King County Public Health, the Washington State Department of Health among others to provide resources, education, and cooling locations where Seattle residents can go for air conditioning and healthy indoor air. 


Oil Conversions Counter

Drinking Water

Goal: Provide clean, safe, drinking water
Seattle analyzes more than 50 samples daily to ensure we are 100% in compliance with regulatory limits that protect customer health, and that our water is clean and safe to drink.

Our water quality laboratory analyzes over 20,000 microbiological samples each year and conducts chemical and physical monitoring 365 days per year. This facility is the largest state-accredited water utility laboratory. Tests are conducted on water from all parts of the Seattle system as well as for other water utilities in the region. More detailed water quality reports can be found here


Bottle icon with lines showing 56.9% recycle rate and 70% goal

Recycling Rate

Goal: Recycle 70% of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) by 2022.
As of 2017, Seattle recycling rate is 56.9%. This is an increase of 30.1 percentage rates since 1988 when the rate was 26.8%, when data was first gathered. 

The per capita waste generation rate (i.e., pounds of waste per person per day generated) has decreased since peaking in 2007, dropping from a peak of 2.74 pounds per person per day in 2007 to a low of 2.23 pounds per person in 2017. That's an 18.6% reduction over the last decade. Seattle Public Utilities has a wealth of resources on composting and recycling online.


Graphic showing 475 tons of pollutants removed since 2016

Pollutant Removal from Roadways

Goal: Clear stormwater pollutants from roadways
Seattle has removed 475 tons of pollutants from the roads via street sweeping since 2016. 

Street sweeping is remarkably effective in removing pollutants from our air and waterways. This is critical for people who live near heavily traveled roadways--many of whom are people of color. Annually, the sweepers pick up around 2,600 tons of trash, leaves, and debris, preventing around 150 tons of pollutants from potentially entering our local waterways. 

Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) and Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) regularly sweep over 90% of Seattle's arterial streets. City crews sweep 32 night routes and 7 day routes throughout the year, with 3 additional routes swept during leaf season. Learn more about street sweeping.


Blue drop shape showing 260 million gallons managed

Stormwater Pollution

Goal: Reduce Stormwater Pollution by using nature based methods 
As of 2018, Seattle manages 260 million gallons of polluted stormwater annually with Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI), a 35% increase over the amount of gallons managed via GSI in 2016. 

Green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) is an approach to stormwater management that protects, restores, or mimics the natural water cycle. GSI prevents overflows and pollution much like a forest would--by slowing and cleaning the water, and either reusing it or allowing it to soak back through the soil.

During 2017-2018, SPU completed construction of three large bioretention projects in Ballard, Delridge and Broadview to help reduce polluted runoff entering our water bodies. Collectively, the projects manage runoff from over 90 acres. The City is working to expand GSI partnerships. Learn more about our program and partnership opportunities


Acres of waterway cleaned in 2018 is 29

Duwamish River

Goal: Clean up 177 Acres of Duwamish River by 2030 - in partnership with King County, Port of Seattle, and The Boeing Company
As of 2018, the partnership has cleaned up 29 acres of waterway.

The Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition/Technical Advisory Group (DRCC/TAG) is a community organization involved in all aspects of the cleanup of the Duwamish River, working to ensure the cleanup meets community standards by restoring environmental health and protecting the fishers and families who use the river as well as reflecting the priorities, values and will of the people who live and work in the region. The organization was founded in 2001 by community, neighborhood, environmental, tribal, and small business organizations that came together to serve as EPA's Community Advisory Group.