Lessons Learned from Mercer Island’s Water Emergency

Mercer Island water distribution

It’s easy to take water for granted—from the simple act of turning on a faucet to get a drink of water, to the water that a school or business needs for daily operations—until there is no water available.

This past fall, the City of Mercer Island had what was called a “Boil Water Advisory Event” that impacted far more than just Mercer Island residents and businesses.

BoilWaterAlert signIn response, agencies around the region—including the Department of Health, Public Health Seattle and King County, Seattle Public Utilities and several other organizations—all came together in an unprecedented effort to help get Mercer Island’s water utility operating again.

Now that the event is over and everything appears to be back to normal, the water utility agencies in the Puget sound are discussing the lessons learned from the event, and the ways in which we can better prepare ourselves should we have a water-related emergency in our future:

Mercer Island Boil Water Advisory cropWork With Neighboring Water Utilities

We at North City Water District have emergency interties with the City of Mountlake Terrace so that we can move water north or south if our supply lines fail.

We will also continue to work with our neighboring water utilities (Northshore Utility District, Lake Forest Park Water District, Seattle Public Utilities and Olympic View Water and Sewer District) to explore additional ways that we can support each other in emergency situations.

Identify Who is in Charge

In a large-scale emergency, a clear command structure must be established to make sure that everyone’s actions are coordinated in a timely manner, without redundancy and in the most efficient approach possible.

Mercer Island Times ArticleEnsure Effective Communications

Coordinated communication is key in an emergency. With today’s technology, there are a variety of ways to communicate, ranging from TV, radio, and newspapers, to email, social media, websites and blogs, as well as word of mouth, phone calls and beyond. For these reasons, we at North City Water District have recognized the need to update and confirm our customers’ contact information for emergency contact purposes.

Maintain Up-to-Date Contact Information

In January, please be on the watch for a letter from your District, separate from your billing statement, requesting updated contact information from all of our customers. Our purpose in collecting this information is to ensure that we can reach you as quickly as possible in the event of a water-related emergency. We will not share your information with any other organization or use it for any purpose other than emergency notification.

If you are comfortable with Facebook, you can also receive alerts by “liking” our page:

And/or you can subscribe to our website’s Email Alerts feature, found in the upper right-hand area of this page.

Getting your water service back to full function is our goal in the event of an emergency. Being able to communicate with each other regarding the handling and status of an emergency will help everything go more smoothly!

Thanks to the City of Mercer Island for the use of their photos.