Washington state's Central Puget Sound area faces significant challenges in meeting the water needs for people and fish habitat with available resources, according to a recently-released study. The report -"2001 Puget Sound Regional Water Supply Outlook" - says at least 24 of the 158 largest utilities in the King, Pierce and Snohomish County-region, including large regional purveyors, anticipate that their demands will exceed the capacity of their existing water supplies before 2020.

It goes on to explain that the three-county area has experienced rapid growth over the past 10 years, and an additional 27 percent increase in the area's population is anticipated between 2000 and 2020. In the longer term, a 61 percent increase in population is expected between 2000 and 2050. At the same time, the region is working to recover threatened species of fish by improving fish habitat. In some cases, this may require making less water available for municipal purposes as more water is left in rivers. The Outlook says there also is considerable uncertainty in the overall volume of water resources available to meet the region's needs.

The study represents a two-year effort during which information was gathered from the 158 largest water utilities that supply water to over 90 percent of the three-county population. It was commissioned by the Central Puget Sound Water Suppliers' Forum, a group that includes many of the water utilities and the local governments of the three counties.