Protected Watersheds

More than 100,000 acres, a key part of the invisible system

  • Cheryl_Capron_smRalph Naess, Public and Cultural Programs Manager
    "It’s a huge ‘aha!’ moment when people come up to our Cedar River Watershed Education Center. They see the mountains, and the lake and streams and waterfalls and ask in amazement, ‘Is that my drinking water?’ It’s a beautiful thing: water with spirit."

The watershed and its water: two great resources

Two surface water sources provide our water: 65 percent from the Cedar River and 35 percent from the South Fork Tolt River. The system also has wells that weren’t needed in 2017. These two surface water sources begin in the Cascade Mountains.

Since both watersheds are publicly owned, Seattle Public Utilities makes sure that the land and water is free of agricultural, industrial, residential and recreational use. This means that contaminants have little opportunity to enter the water, making our water some of the best in the nation, and requiring less treatment than most other cities.

More than forty people, including biologists and hydrologists, education staff, watershed inspectors, and maintenance people work to protect the watersheds. Watershed maintenance includes decommissioning roads to reduce run-off, improving culvert systems, and taking care of the forest, plants, fish and wildlife.

We get ongoing benefit from Seattle’s early decision in the 1890s to protect the watershed and provide a gravity-fed clean mountain source of water for our region.

Come see the watershed

While the watershed is closed to public access, the Cedar River Watershed Education Center on Rattlesnake Lake in North Bend provides guided tours, exhibits and events to connect people to the source of Seattle’s drinking water and its unique cultural and natural history. School field trips, educational events, volunteer opportunities and family programs bring the history, science and culture of the watershed alive. Visit the Education Center to learn more.