Water plentiful, but not always easy to get | History Files

By Tim Raetzloff | Nov 06, 2017

Water seems like such a common thing. We turn the tap and get hot or cold. We look out at Puget Sound and see billions of gallons. For six months of the year, water falls from the sky with a regularity that becomes tiresome.

We take water for granted.

But it wasn't always so. Fresh water was critical for any place that wanted to be anything. I suppose that early Edmonds residents carried buckets of water from our numerous streams. Maybe some of them had wells. But as population, and outhouses, increased, the need for clean drinking water increased with it.

According to the city of Edmonds website, Allen Yost and family formed the Spring Water Company in 1902. They built a small dam on Shell Creek in what is now the northwest corner of Yost Park.

The water, piped in cedar logs, was supplied to homes and businesses down the hill. The dam’s evidence remains in Yost Park.

Every town had to gradually build a water system to supply its needs. Seattle originally used Lake Washington as a massive source of water until too many people built homes close to the lake.

It became necessary, over time, to move to water sources nearer the Cascade Mountains.

Edmonds now gets its water from the Everett Water supply at Spada Lake in the upper Sultan River basin.

Seattle built a reservoir on the upper Cedar River near North Bend. At least two towns, Moncton and Taylor, were destroyed by the Seattle water supply. Moncton was destroyed accidentally because geology wasn't understood as well 100 years ago as it is now – it was flooded by water seeping underground from the reservoir. Moncton is now under Rattlesnake Lake.

Seattle intentionally emptied Taylor due to concern about the water quality if it was allowed to continue. Taylor’s name is partially memorialized in the Tahoma School District. “Ta” from Taylor, “ho” from Hobart, and “ma” from Maple Valley.

It sounds like a Native-American name, but is made up of the first two letters of the names of the three principal towns of the district.

Tacoma built a reservoir on the upper Green River and destroyed the towns of Lester and Nagrom. The larger cities pushed smaller towns out to obtain enough water resources to grow. Later, Seattle built a second watershed on the Tolt River in an unpopulated area.

The struggles for water in Washington were never as severe as the water war in California, where Los Angeles destroyed the Owens Valley and drained Owens Lake to get enough water for thirsty Angelenos.

For that, we can probably be thankful that it does rain here often.


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