Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Washington Drought 2015: State needs 1,365 percent of normal snowfall to avoid water shortages

By Dan Partridge,  Communications Manager, Water Resources Program 

 Record rains over the weekend in Western Washington left some asking, “Where is the drought we are hearing about in the news?”

 It’s good to see the rain in times of drought but Gov. Jay Inslee’s drought declarations last week were not for most of Western Washington and not about a lack of rain.

The governor declared a drought on the east side of Central Cascades including Yakima and Wenatchee, the Walla Walla region and the Olympic Peninsula.  
Current snowpack at 26 percent of average    
Ecology Director Maia Bellon has called it a “snowpack drought” because statewide our snowpack is only 26 percent of average.
Snowpack is like a frozen reservoir that in a typical year accumulates over the winter and then in the spring and summer melts slowly and runs off into our rivers and streams providing water for people, farms and fish.

Snowpack actually bumped up a bit over the weekend in the Olympic Mountains from 4 to 11 percent, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.  Even with that, the NRCS estimates that more than 1,365 percent of normal snowfall would have to fall in the Olympics and elsewhere to bring our snowpack up to normal by early April. That’s usually the peak time of snowpack accumulations.

Drought conditions likely to get worse
The drought conditions that prompted the governor’s announcement on Friday are unlikely to improve because continued persistence of warmer than normal temperatures is expected through spring.
Ecology working to provide drought relief
Ecology has applied to the Legislature for $9 million in drought relief funds to help alleviate hardships occurring because of water shortages. You can track our work at  Washington Drought 2015



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