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Earthquakes: How Is Bellevue Utilities Preparing?

Bellevue Utilities recognizes that a large magnitude earthquake could strike the Puget Sound region.  That is why we have conducted resiliency evaluations of all our water reservoirs and are now embarking on the work needed to evaluate our water distribution system resiliency. The following are some of the ways we are preparing:

  • Seismic Vulnerability Assessment: we have and continue to evaluate our systems for performance during and after a seismic event. We have an ongoing seismic retrofit program for our water reservoirs and approximately half have been retrofitted or replaced and we have a schedule for the remaining.
  • Master Plan for Well Rights: there are a number of wells located around Bellevue that were used as the regular source of water supply in the past. The city, which gets its water from Seattle through the Tolt and Cedar River Watersheds, has water rights for these wells, currently exercises two emergency wells, and is evaluating further development of all wells for emergency water supply.  This work is scheduled for completion in the 2017-18 timeframe.
  • Water Shortage Contingency Plan: Bellevue has the ability to connect with neighboring municipalities’ water systems in the event that some areas of the region suffer less damage in the event of an earthquake.
  • Mobile Water Resources: Bellevue has a blivet system (portable, collapsible water tanks) to bring water to areas affected by water loss.
  • Redundancy: Bellevue’s water system has redundancies built into it. This allows us to bypass breaks. Additionally, we have trailer-mounted generators to enable our pumping stations to deliver water to areas in need.
  • Staff Training: Bellevue’s utility staff regularly participate in emergency response practice activities to prepare for catastrophic events like earthquakes.
  • During emergency events, Bellevue has the ability to execute contracts on a rapid turn-around basis to enable construction to fix broken systems quickly.

Finally, Bellevue works together with regional partners to ensure a unified response should an earthquake strike. We are part of the regional Water Supply Forum. Its members include Seattle, Tacoma, Everett, and the Cascade Water Alliance (which Bellevue is a member, along with Issaquah, Kirkland, Redmond, Sammamish Plateau Water, Skyway Water & Sewer District, and Tukwila). The group is focused on mitigating risks due to earthquakes and water quality events.

Related Links:

Water Supply Forum

Resilient Washington State

The retrofitted Crossroads Reservoir.

Seismic anchors at Crossroads Rerseroir.

Mobile drinking water station (blivet).


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