Friday, July 29, 2016

Watching the water supply

This blog post is part of an ongoing series about water supply conditions. Please click here to read the previous post. If you want to learn more, visit our Washington water supply information page.

Goodbye hoodies, hello flip-flops – summer temperatures are here! Despite the heat, our water supplies continue to be in good shape statewide. We can thank the recent cool, wet “Jultober” conditions for reducing water demand and improving water supplies. Those moderate conditions felt much different from last summer, when we were in a statewide drought emergency.

Status of our supplies

Weather impacts | If late June and early July felt cooler than usual to you, you’re not wrong. Average temperatures for the last month were within 2 degrees of average statewide, with most of the state being below average. Things changed late last week when the heat set in, especially on the east side. Yakima hit 102 on Monday, tying the record high for that day. Looking ahead, the weather is expected to cool off a bit in the coming days.

Precipitation amounts have been varied, depending on the region. Over the past 30 days, the north Olympic Peninsula has been drier than average while the eastern slope of the Cascades and southeast Washington have been wetter than average. Record daily rainfalls were recorded recently in Seattle, Kennewick and near Walla Walla. Flash flooding even caused some road closures in Chelan and Douglas counties.

Rivers and streams | As of today, 28 percent of rivers are below normal. Our rivers, in an aggregated sense, are just shy of normal flows. That said, in a few rivers – about 7 percent – flows are much lower than average or are at record low conditions.

Agriculture | The Yakima River Basin, our drought bellwether, continues to have a good water supply. Junior water users are being prorated to 90 percent of full supply. Last year, it was 46 percent. Summer storms have helped rivers in some areas, especially on the east side, and reduced the need for continual irrigation.

A bull trout navigates an upper tributary of the 
Yakima River. Photo: William Meyers/WDFW
Fish | Our fish are doing alright, despite some areas of high water temperatures. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is monitoring conditions closely and may take action to protect vulnerable fish populations. Visit their website to learn more. Overall, the toughest part of the year for fish was spring, but this summer so far is better than last year.

Drinking water | Drinking water supplies in Seattle, Tacoma and Everett are in good shape.

What’s next

The Water Supply Availability Committee (WSAC) will hold its monthly meeting on Aug. 11. This committee is a team of experts from state and national agencies who review data and discuss potential water shortages. If conditions warrant, this committee can convene the Executive Water Emergency Committee (EWEC), which is made of state agency leaders with a stake in water supplies. These leaders assess findings from WSAC and determine whether water users in affected areas will likely incur undue hardships. EWEC can recommend the governor consider an emergency drought declaration.

How you can help

It’s easy to make water conservation part of your daily routine. Here are two tips that will save water and money:

  • Wash only full loads of laundry or use the appropriate water level/load size selection on the washing machine.
  • Want a nice, cold glass of water? Keep drinking water in the refrigerator instead of letting the faucet run until the water is cool.

For more tips, visit our water conservation page.

By Kristin Johnson-Waggoner, Water Resources Program communications manager

No comments: