[5/21/19] Drought Declaration

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Gov. Jay Inslee has expanded a drought emergency declaration to cover nearly half of Washington state including the Chelan, Entiat and Wenatchee watersheds.

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

“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,” said State Ecology Director Maia Bellon.

Despite this past week’s rain, rainfall totals for the state remain below normal.

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

Residents served by the Seattle, Everett and Tacoma regional water systems are in much better shape. These public utilities report that they have sufficient water supply for people and fish this summer. Their water managers are watching the weather forecasts and encourage customers to continue to use water wisely.

There are two factors considered for any emergency drought declaration: Water supply conditions that are currently or projected to be at or below 75 percent of average, and a projection of undue hardships. The state last declared a drought emergency in 2015.

The 2019 Legislature appropriated $2 million for drought response. Ecology anticipates funding for public agencies for drought response will be available in early June.

You can access several resources on Ecology’s website at ecology.wa.gov/drought.