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Washington Declares Statewide Drought Emergency

Posted by feww on May 16, 2015

Glacier lilies blooming on Olympic Peninsula, instead of 200cm of snow

Gov. Inslee declared a statewide drought emergency for Washington on Friday. Snowpack is at historic lows, rivers are dwindling and irrigation districts are forced to cut off water to farmers. 

Snowpack in the mountains has dropped to less than 16 percent of normal levels statewide.

On May 1, the Natural Resources Conservation Service found 11 snow sites in Washington that are snow free for the first time ever. Of the 98 snow sites the Conservation Service measured in Washington, 66 of them are currently snow free.

In April, 78 percent of streams statewide were running “below or much below normal,” with some already at historic lows, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.

“We’re really starting to feel the pain from this snowpack drought,” Inslee said. “Impacts are already severe in several areas of the state. Difficult decisions are being made about what crops get priority water and how best to save fish.”

Crop loss resulting from the drought is projected at $1.2 billion this year, said the Washington Department of Agriculture.

  • To protect crops in the state’s most productive agricultural region — the Yakima Basin—irrigation districts are turning off water for weeks at a time to try to extend water supplies longer into the summer.
  • In the Walla Walla region, water is being shifted from creek to creek to keep water flowing for steelhead, Chinook and bull trout. Fish are even being hauled farther upstream to cooler water.
  • On the Olympic Peninsula, instead of 80 inches of snow now, flowers like glacier lilies are blooming.
  • The Department of Natural Resources expects more early-season and higher-elevation wildfires amid the continuing drought..

Notable quotes…

“We’re really starting to feel the pain from this snowpack drought. Impacts are already severe in several areas of the state. Difficult decisions are being made about what crops get priority water and how best to save fish.” Gov. Inslee

“This drought is unlike any we’ve ever experienced. Rain amounts have been normal but snow has been scarce. And we’re watching what little snow we have quickly disappear.” Washington Department of Ecology Director Maia Bellon

State of Emergency Declared on March 13, 2015

Inslee declared a drought emergency for three Washington regions on March 13, 2015 when statewide snowpack  averaged 27 percent of normal. The proclamation was for the Olympic Peninsula, on the east side of the central Cascade Mountains including Yakima and Wenatchee, and the Walla Walla region, which are vital to apple and wine production, said the governor’s office.



4 Responses to “Washington Declares Statewide Drought Emergency”

  1. Few Americans realize how much of the Pacific Northwest is desert — the fact that all of the apples are in irrigation-dependent orchards. My residency there was in the years before the vineyards proliferated, and I remember all too well an anxious winter that was rescued only by heavy April snowfall in the mountains, where the irrigation water is impounded in reservoirs for release through the year.

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