Clean Water Healthy Habitat
We are committed to investing more than $9 billion over the next decade to protect water quality and habitat throughout King County, benefiting the people, salmon, and orcas that call this place home. Clean Water Healthy Habitat is a commitment by King County Executive Dow Constantine to ensure that each of those investments produce the best outcomes as quickly as possible.
About half of those investments are essential to maintaining our existing infrastructure, which treats more than 66 billion gallons of wastewater and stormwater each year. Before we decide how to invest the remaining amount, we’re working with our partners — Tribes, regulatory agencies, cities, environmental advocates, and community-based organizations — to create a resilient system that is prepared for climate impacts and population growth.
Here is what we want to achieve with Clean Water Healthy Habitat:
- Designing a resilient approach to protecting water quality that prepares the region for climate impacts and population growth
- Working with partners to create a regulatory framework that builds on past successes, ensures accountability, encourages innovation, and capitalizes on the latest science
- Contributing to a unified effort that crosses jurisdictional boundaries to achieve measurable results at a watershed level, from the Cascades to Puget Sound
- Aligning our work across the entire King County enterprise so that all departments are advancing clearly defined goals
- Building a more just, equitable community where each action we take helps dismantle the system racism that persists in King County
Clean Water Healthy Habitat
A nimble approach to respond to new threats to water quality
In the traditional model, water quality investments aren’t determined by the outcomes they’ll produce – they’re largely determined by the designated revenue source and what it will take to comply with regulations.
We will continue to comply with all regulations. What’s different about Clean Water Healthy Habitat is that if there is a new approach that produces better results faster, we want to work with our partners to create a regulatory framework that requires us to meet the new standard. This will create a nimble approach to protecting water quality, one that provides flexibility to meet new and emerging threats that will occur as the result of climate change and population growth.
Basing our actions on the latest science
Scientists and experts throughout the Central Puget Sound region are conducting more research than ever to determine what the greatest threats are now to water quality and habitat. We want this growing body of science to help guide our actions.
We’re working with scientists from universities, regulatory agencies, and cities to develop a toolkit – known as the Water Quality Benefit Evaluation – that will compare potential investments and costs by how well they reduce pollutants to achieve specific goals, such as edible fish, shellfish harvesting, more chinook salmon, and more fish for southern resident orcas.
We will make this toolkit available to decision-makers throughout the Central Puget Sound region so that all of us can base our investments the latest science.
Water Quality Benefits Evaluation Toolkit
The toolkit informs King County how well different investments reduce pollutants and protect ecological and human health.
It’s time for a new approach
Change can be difficult, especially when historic practices have produced positive results in the past.
Yet the current approach is clearly not working. Despite decades of outstanding performance by our staff and partners, native salmon runs continue to decline, southern resident orcas are on the brink of extinction, and pollution still disproportionately impacts BIPOC communities.
The decisions we make over the next few years will guide our action for decades – and will have an impact on the water quality and habitat of our region for generations to come.
Clean Water Healthy Habitat will help ensure that we base those decisions on the latest sciences to achieve the best results as quickly as possible for people, for salmon, for orcas – for all living things that call this spectacular place home.
Read the plan
Environmental Affairs Officer
King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks