Puget Sound

Background Information

The Puget Sound region is an inland area in Washington that includes Puget Sound, the Puget Sound lowlands, and the surrounding region between the Cascade Range and the Olympic Mountains. Puget Sound is a large saltwater system of estuaries fed by highly seasonal freshwater from the Olympic and Cascade mountain watersheds.

The Puget Sound Regional Climate Preparedness Collaborative represents the central Puget Sound region of King, Pierce, Snohomish, and Kitsap Counties, which includes the cities of Seattle and Tacoma, as well as two large seaports. The region has a combined population of nearly four million residents and two million jobs, and is forecasted to grow to over five million residents and nearly three million jobs by 2040. The region’s population—which includes a significant and growing number of foreign-born residents—is becoming more diverse. Overall, the central Puget Sound region has high incomes compared to the country as a whole, but there is a significant income gap between the highest earners and the 11.7% of residents living in poverty.

The most significant climatic changes projected for the Pacific Northwest are an increase in base sea level and high tides, higher average temperatures, and more frequent and longer extreme heat events. Reductions in snowpack due to warmer, wetter winters, as well as hotter, drier summers and more extreme precipitation events may increase the likelihood of landslides and forest fires. If the region is not prepared for these changes and the subsequent risks to both social and ecological systems, these events will significantly impact the health and well-being of the community, as well as the region’s economy and infrastructure.

Team Summary

The Puget Sound team is dedicated to building and formalizing the Regional Climate Preparedness Collaborative, a regional network established to ensure the region’s communities, economy, and environment are resilient to the impacts of a changing climate. The Collaborative—which includes the Puget Sound Regional Council, the City of Seattle, King County, Snohomish County, Pierce County, Sound Transit, the Port of Seattle, and the University of Washington’s Climate Impacts Group—uses the Puget Sound Regional Council’s four-county regional coordination framework.

Promising Practices

  • The collaborative is in the process of finalizing a Regional Collaborative Resolution to be adopted by each county and three to five cities within each county. The resolution aims to strengthen member collaboration on the identification and mapping of regional climate vulnerabilities, jointly integrating climate preparedness into local plans and capital facility design and siting, working with regional networks to engage diverse communities in co-developing preparedness strategies, engaging the business sector to understand economic and financial risks, developing consistent messaging across the Puget Sound region, and becoming a forum for peer-to-peer and cross-disciplinary exchanges.

Key Challenges

  • Understanding how jurisdictions, agencies, and communities fund resilience work at the regional scale, particularly when member counties and municipalities are at various stages of plan development and implementation.
  • Fitting the private sector into the regional adaptation equation; many of the region’s social and economic issues—an ongoing population boom, a high cost of housing coupled with a decline in housing stock, and development in counties unequipped to manage it—are tied into land use and development.
  • Prioritizing and narrowing the scope of content of the collaborative’s work on regional areas of concern, including engagement and outreach, natural resource management, flood risks, food security, and disaster preparedness.