OLYMPIA — Public water systems would be required to include a climate resilience element in their long-range planning efforts, under legislation passed today by the Washington State Senate.

Senate Bill 5094, sponsored by Sen. Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island), would impact public water systems with 1,000 or more connections and would include financial assistance for planning and projects to protect water systems from extreme weather events.

“Extreme weather events like drought, flooding, and forest fires will only become more common in the years ahead,” Rolfes said. “We must take steps now to better prepare vulnerable water systems that we count on to deliver clean water to our taps.”

According to a recent University of Washington Climate Impacts Group survey of 36 water systems in the state, 75% are not climate ready. The legislation will also connect experts from the Department of Health with local governments to provide guidance and technical assistance for infrastructure and design improvements.

“The cost of extreme weather is already high, and the frequency and cost will escalate over time, so it’s important we act on this sooner than later,” said Poulsbo resident Brian Walsh, a former state water resource specialist who worked with Rolfes on the legislation. “By assessing risk and developing adaptation now, utilities will be able to avoid greater costs and risks to public health from failing water systems.”

The bill now heads to the state House of Representatives for consideration.