Welcome to the City of Port Townsend

Water Resources

Water Treatment and Annual Drinking Water Reports


The City of Port Townsend's municipal water is supplied by gravity from the Big and Little Quilcene Rivers. The existing surface water system has been in operation since 1928, making it one of the oldest water systems in Washington State. In addition to serving the residents of the City of Port Townsend, water is provided to the Port Townsend Paper Company, Glen Cove, and parts of the unincorporated area west of the City.

From the late 1800s until 1904 the Spring Valley Water Company (SVWC) supplied water to the City of Port Townsend from springs near the pond at F Street and San Juan Avenue. The SVWC began development of a diversion on Snow Creek as additional water was needed for growth. In 1904 the City acquired the SVWC and completed construction of the Snow Creek diversion and wood stave pipeline. Snow Creek served as the City's water supply from 1906 until 1928 when construction of the Crown-Zellerbach kraft paper mill (now Port Townsend Paper Company) created water demands that exceeded the capacity of the watershed.

Big Quilcene River Diversion
Big Quilcene River Diversion

Port Townsend applied for and received water rights to the Big Quilcene and Little Quilcene Rivers in 1927. The City and Crown-Zellerbach cooperatively constructed the Big Quilcene timber crib diversion and 28.5 miles of 30-inch wood stave transmission pipe between the Big Quilcene River and Port Townsend. In the 1950s, the wood stave pipe was replaced with steel pipe. All water flows through City Lake, which serves as an equalizing reservoir. The diversion, pipeline and reservoirs are known as the Olympic Gravity Water System (OGWS).

The Little Quilcene River diversion was developed in 1956 as a supplemental supply to the Big Quilcene River. A timber crib diversion dam constructed on the Little Quilcene River conveys water via a pipeline to Lord's Lake Reservoir. The Little Quilcene River timber crib diversion was replaced in 1995 with a concrete diversion structure.

Little Quilcene Diversion

Other than Lord's Lake and City Lake, which are owned by the City, 95 percent of the municipal watershed is in the Olympic National Forest with the remainder in the Olympic National Park. Cooperation between the City and Forest Service for protection of the watershed dates back to the construction of the surface water diversions and transmission pipelines.

Lord's Lake
Lord's Lake Reservoir

Water served by the City of Port Townsend is filtered with membrane filtration system that is designed to remove potential microbial contaminants. Chlorine is added after filtration to provide an additional safety barrier and to maintain the required disinfectant residual throughout the distribution system.

Water Hardness

Water hardness is related to the concentration of dissolved minerals, specifically calcium and magnesium in the water. Hard water makes it more difficult to form suds and may leave mineral deposits on fixtures and dishes. Soft water uses less soap and detergent to form suds and can make clothing and skin feel softer. Some appliances, such as dishwashers, have a setting to adjust for the hardness of the water. The two most common units of measurement for hardness are milligrams per liter (mg/L) as calcium carbonate and grains per gallon. Port Townsend’s water hardness is an average of 44 milligrams per liter or 2.6 grains per gallons. Anything 60 mg/L or less is generally considered soft water.

Water Conservation FAQs

Reporting and Responsibility for Fixing Leaks

Water leaks between the street and customer meter are the City's responsibility to repair. Please call the Public Works Department 385-7212 or Water Distribution Crew Chief 379-4434 to report suspected leaks. Leaks in the home or in the line between the home and customer meter are the customer’s responsibility. The customer may repair leaks on their side of the meter if able, otherwise contact a plumber for assistance.

How to Determine If You Have a Water Leak

The best method for determining whether a leak exists is to take actual water meter readings. This method checks the home or business's entire internal plumbing system for water leaks. Take a water meter reading just before going to bed or when no one will use any water for several hours. Take another meter reading in the morning before any water is used or after a few hours of non-use. The two readings should be the same. If not and you cannot account for use by a humidifier, ice maker, water softener, water filter or other use, you have a leak, and further investigation is recommended. Most meters the City uses have a small white triangle in the center of the meter that serves as a low flow indicator. If the triangle is spinning with all water turned off it is also an indication of a leak.

Repairing Water Leaks

Surveys show that majority of the leaks in residential plumbing systems are found at the toilet tank. Toilets leak at the bottom of the tank around the flapper plug or at the top of the tank into the overflow tube. To test the flapper plug, remove the lid from the toilet tank and add food coloring to the tank. Wait 15 minutes or so. If the coloring appears in the bowl, the flapper plug is leaking and should be repaired or replaced. The water level in the toilet tank should be approximately 1" below the top of the overflow tube. If the water level is at the overflow tube the leak may be occurring at the float shutoff valve. The float should be adjusted so that the water level in the tank is at least 1" below the top of the tube. Toilet tank leaks typically result from worn parts or misalignment of some part of the flushing mechanism.

Faucets are the other major source of water leaks. Replacing the O-ring or packing washer inside the valve can fix most drips.

Water leaks are costly. A slow drip can waste 15-20 gallons per day. It is not unusual for an unseen toilet leak to waste 100 or more gallons per day. Besides saving water, fixing the leaks will also save you money on your water and wastewater bill. Most toilet or faucets repairs can be done by a "do-it-yourselfer" but, if not, call a plumber.

Conservation Ideas

  • Convert to low water use landscaping, known as Xeriscape. Select plants, shrubs, and trees that need minimal water.
  • Use drip irrigation for plants, shrubs, and trees.
  • Water your lawn and gardens early in the morning or later in the evening (but not too late, otherwise you will encourage fungal growth). Limit the water you use to approximately one inch per week, including rainfall. For best results, moisten the soil between 4 and 6 inches deep with each watering. This will encourage growth of a deep root structure that is more drought-resistant.
  • Use a broom to sweep up outdoors. Using water to wash down sidewalks, driveways, and pavements is wasteful.
  • A garden hose can use more than 10 gallons of water per minute. Use a spray nozzle with an automatic shutoff handle on your hose so water doesn't flow continuously.
  • Consider using a commercial car wash that recycles water.
  • If you have an older home, replace the toilets with water efficient models that use 1.6 gallons per flush or less.
  • Install low flow faucet aerators in the kitchen and bathrooms.
  • New showerheads use 2.5 gallons per minute - up to 75 percent less than older showerheads.
  • Take showers instead of baths. A standard bathtub holds up to 50 gallons of water, whereas a normal shower would use less than 20 gallons. Shorter showers save water as well as energy used to heat the water.
  • Don't let the water run when you are shaving, brushing your teeth, or hand washing dishes. Turn on the tap only when you need it! Additionally, don't use faucets at full pressure.
  • Consider purchasing a new water and energy efficient clothes washer and/or dishwasher.
  • Wash only full loads of laundry in your washing machine and full loads of dishes in your dishwasher. You'll not only save water, but energy as well.
  • Don't pre-rinse dishes. Check to see if your dishwasher can clean dishes without pre-rinsing them. Most new dishwashers don't require pre-rinsing.
  • Reuse clean household water. Collect all the water that is typically wasted while waiting for the hot water to reach your faucet or showerhead. Use this to water your houseplants or garden. Do the same with water that is used to boil eggs or steam vegetables.

Water Levels in the Big & Little Quilcene Rivers

The City will work with the local newspapers to inform the public in the event of a drought or conditions that impact our water supplies. For current river flow click on the links below.

Links of Interest

Water Conservation Tips for: