Pipers Creek Natural Drainage System (NDS) Project

Rendering of street view of project

Pipers Creek project rendering

Project description

Improving creek water quality, reducing flooding, and providing multiple community benefits.

Stormwater runoff carries more than 12 million pounds of pollution into our water bodies each year. Stormwater that falls on the roofs, streets, and parking lots in your neighborhood can pick up harmful pollutants and carry them into Pipers Creek, which flows into Puget Sound. The pollutants can harm fish, wildlife, and our ecosystems.

With this project, SPU will design and build natural drainage systems (NDS) on several blocks in the Bitter Lake neighborhood. Natural Drainage Systems are built in the roadway shoulder, the space between the street edge and property line. They are filled with deep-rooted plants and spongy soils, which capture and help clean polluted stormwater before it reaches Pipers Creek and Puget Sound. Learn more about how NDS works.

This project is part of SPU's Plan to Protect Seattle's Waterways. This plan aims to:

  • Improve water quality and reduce pollution from stormwater flows into Pipers Creek and Puget Sound and help manage stormwater by constructing natural drainage systems in your neighborhood.
  • Provide community benefits, including reduction of drainage issues in the street, traffic calming, pedestrian improvements, and added landscaping.


The Pipers Creek Natural Drainage System Project is in the Bitter Lake neighborhood along Dayton Ave N and Phinney Ave N, between N 115th St and just south of N 130th St. The project area is limited to the Pipers Creek watershed due to regulatory funding requirements. View the Pipers Creek project map.

As design continues, the project team will narrow down the selection of blocks where NDS cells will be installed. Other drainage improvements may be built throughout the project area. We will not build NDS cells on every block in the project area.

What's happening now?

We have renewed our efforts on this project after pausing in 2023 to bring on a new specialized consulting team to design the project. This project is currently in the early design stage, and as our work resumes, we will be evaluating locations to construct natural drainage systems and other improvements in the project area. You may expect to occasionally see SPU team members in the neighborhood as we work on this technical evaluation. The project team will continue project design through 2026 and expects to begin construction as early as 2027.

Community benefits

Natural drainage systems offer multiple benefits to local neighborhoods and ecosystems, including:

  • Increased landscape diversity
  • Lower risk of flooding
  • Healthier creek ecosystems
  • Traffic calming
  • More trees along the street

For pedestrian improvements, SPU is partnering with Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) to bring pedestrian pathways and other improvements to the neighborhood. For more information about the SDOT improvements, please contact Chris Kartheiser at chris.kartheiser@seattle.gov.

Community input

Community input is essential to this project along with technical evaluations in each project phase. The project team will work with neighbors and community members throughout the design process to understand important issues in the neighborhood and identify appropriate locations for natural drainage systems.

We have worked closely with the community in previous efforts and will continue to do so as we advance in the design process. We expect to gather community input again in fall or winter of 2024, once our design team has developed preliminary design options for the 10% design milestone. In the meantime, we will work with individual homeowners as we identify workable sites for NDS cells throughout the project area. Sign up to receive email updates when public input opportunities become available.

Early 2024

  • Develop options analysis (10% design)

Late 2024

  • Public meeting(s) for community information and feedback

Early 2025

  • Complete options analysis (10% design)

Late 2025

  • Continue design and community engagement


  • Complete design


  • Start construction


  • Complete construction

Public Utilities

Andrew Lee, General Manager and CEO
Address: 700 5th Avenue, Suite 4900, Seattle, WA, 98104
Mailing Address: PO Box 34018, Seattle, WA, 98124-5177
Phone: (206) 684-3000

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Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) is comprised of three major direct-service providing utilities: the Water Utility, the Drainage and Wastewater Utility, and the Solid Waste Utility.