Water & Salmon

Posted Thursday, March 12, 2020

At a gaging station near Mount Vernon, the height and flow of the Skagit River is monitored constantly to determine water levels in the river. Based on flow levels during certain times of the year, PUD customers may be asked to reduce their discretionary water usage by 10 percent.

The Skagit River and its feeder streams are the main sources of water for Skagit PUD. When the water in the Skagit River falls below certain levels needed to protect fish habitat, Skagit PUD and the city of Anacortes are required to notify customers to conserve water.

How can water conservation help save fish?

The more water people use or waste, the less there is for fish in rivers and streams. Conserving water will help increase the instream flow of water in rivers and streams, especially during the dry summer months and other low flow periods. An instream flow is simply the minimum amount of water required in a stream or river for the protection of fish habitat. Increasing the instream flow helps fish swim up and downstream, improves spawning habitat, and protects other wildlife and our future water resources.

Historic agreement

In 1996, Skagit PUD entered into a 50-year water rights agreement with the city of Anacortes, Skagit County, Upper Skagit Indian Tribe, Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe, Department of Ecology, and the Department Fish and Wildlife, regarding the use of the Skagit River. As part of the agreement, a four-year study was conducted to help determine the minimum instream flows for the lower Skagit River. In 2001, based on the study’s findings, the Department of Ecology established minimum instream flow levels for the Skagit River. The Skagit is the only river system in Washington that supports all five species of salmon. It also provides roughly 30 percent of the fresh water flowing into Puget Sound. When the river falls below prescribed levels, Skagit PUD and the city of Anacortes have certain public notification processes that we must adhere to based on the joint agreement.

Although every year is different, there are generally two times a year when we anticipate that the river will fall below instream flow levels—once in late winter/early spring and again in late summer/fall.

What can you do to help?

When low-flow conditions do occur, if every customer could find a way to save 15-20 gallons of water per day, we would roughly hit our 10 percent water reduction goal.

Here are some simple water-saving ideas you can use at home:

  • Shorter showers – 5 minutes or less.
  • Turn water off when brushing teeth.
  • Let lawns go dormant in the summer.
  • Water plants deeply and less often.
  • Flush the toilet less.
  • Fix leaks around the house.


If you would like more information about simple ways you can help save water, please visit the related links below.