DOE issues drought advisorty for Wahkiakum, most of Washington
June 3, 2021
Following an extremely dry couple of months, the Department of Ecology this week issued a drought advisory for most of Washington state, including Wahkiakum, Pacific and Cowlitz counties and all areas east of the Cascade Mountains, portions of southwest Washington and the Washington coast.
March through April was the fourth driest such period for Washington state since 1895, Ecology reported. There are growing concerns for farmers and ranchers in Eastern Washington. Early observations of crop stress and expectations for reduced yields are being reported, said Water Resources Planner Jeff Marti in an announcement. He said he has already heard anecdotal accounts of problems from wheat farmers and hay producers.
Marti warned against getting too optimistic after recent rain in the Spokane area.
“We’re dealing with long-term precipitation deficits which take more than a day's rain to alleviate,” he said. “For example, the Spokane Airport has experienced the lowest amount of precipitation for the Feb. 1 to May 24 period, going all the way back to 1881. It needs more than 4 inches of rain to get back to normal.”
While Washington mountains received an above-normal snowpack this year, not all watersheds are fed by melting snow. Springtime precipitation is critical for non-irrigated crops and livestock forage. In a few basins, such as the Pend Oreille, Spokane, Walla Walla, and Snake watersheds, early snowmelt is leaving less than average water levels, and last month’s temperatures were higher than normal for most of Washington.
Marti said the Puget Sound area has sufficient water supply for people and fish this summer.
“Seattle, Tacoma and Everett have stored water and the area hasn’t had a problem with precipitation,” he said.
This is the first time the Department of Ecology has issued a drought advisory since it received the authority to do so from the Legislature in 2020.
Counties included in the advisory are Adams, Asotin, Benton, Chelan, Clallam, Clark, Columbia, Cowlitz, Douglas, Ferry, Franklin, Garfield, Grant, Grays Harbor, Jefferson, Kittitas, Klickitat, Lewis, Lincoln, Okanogan, Pacific, Pend Oreille, Skamania, Spokane, Stevens, Wahkiakum, Walla Walla, Whitman and Yakima.
Observations and photographs of drought conditions can help the Department of Ecology assess whether to elevate state response, the announcement said. Observations should be submitted using the Conditions Monitoring Observation System.
Water users worried their water supply is at risk of failing should contact the nearest Department of Ecology Regional Office.