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Nearly half of the state Washington facing emergency drought conditions

Nearly half of Washington facing emergency drought conditions

A research scientist explains where to draw the line between normal variability and climate change. (Courtesy: Spudman)

May 30, 2019
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has expanded the drought emergency declaration to cover nearly half of Washington state due to worsened, poor water supply conditions around the state and warmer and drier weather predictions through the summer.

Snowpack conditions are currently less than 50% of average for this time of year. Washington State Department of Ecology experts expect the warmer, drier weather will cause the already diminished snowpack to melt more quickly, reducing water availability this summer when it is needed most for farms, communities and fish.

Despite recent precipitation, rainfall totals for the state remain below normal.

The following 24 watersheds are now added to the emergency drought declaration:

Chelan, Colville, Cowlitz, Deschutes, Elwha-Dungeness, Entiat, Grays-Elochoman, Kennedy-Goldsborough, Kettle, Lower Chehalis, Lower Skagit-Samish, Lower Yakima, Lyre-Hoko, Naches, Nooksack, Queets-Quinault, Quilcene-Snow, Skokomish-Dosewallips, Soleduc, Stillaguamish, Upper Chehalis, Upper Skagit, Wenatchee and Willapa.

Gov. Inslee announced the initial emergency drought declaration April 4 for the Methow, Okanogan and Upper Yakima basins.

Maia Bellon, Ecology Director:

“The emergency declaration allows us to expedite emergency water right permitting and make funds available to government entities to address hardships caused by drought conditions.”
The 2019 Legislature appropriated $2 million for drought response. Ecology anticipates funding for public agencies for drought response will be available in early June. There are two factors considered for any emergency drought declaration: Water supply conditions that are currently or projected to be at or below 75% of average and a projection of undue hardships.

The state last declared a drought emergency in 2015.
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