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Washington Drought Watch 2016

Last revised: May 23, 2016

Statewide forecasts for the April-September runoff period are within the normal range

Current forecasts indicate that, for most of the state, the volume of runoff between April and September will be at or near normal levels.  The forecasts have also been declining due to rapid snow melt and limited precipitation.  There are now no regions of the state where snowpack is above normal.  Because of our recent drier than normal conditions, some of the west side basins, which are rain, not snow dependent, are forecasted to have less than 75 percent of normal water supply.  That number represents the hydrologic threshold for drought status, but there is no immediate risk of hardship.

Going forward, conditions will be largely determined by whatever precipitation happens to fall, so we will continue to monitor conditions as they develop.  DOH will be communicating with water systems to ensure that they are managing their systems carefully.

The State’s Water Supply Advisory Committee (WSAC) will meet again on June 2, 2016 to continue to discuss water supply conditions for the 2016 water year.

2015 Drought Report

The following report describes the statewide response to the 2015 Drought in Washington State:

A review of 2015 drought impacts brought some surprising insights.  While surface water creeks and rivers have bounced back so far this winter, an overall decline in groundwater is being seen even in good water years as detailed in a special groundwater story map report .  More data will be gathered this spring to help us better understand these declining aquifers and to consider strategies for sustainably managing both surface and groundwater supplies.

Unlike classic droughts, characterized by extended precipitation deficits, 2015 was the year of the “snowpack drought.”  Washington State had normal or near-normal precipitation over the 2014-2015 winter season.  However, October through March the average statewide temperature was 40.5 degrees Fahrenheit, 4.7 degrees above the 20th century long-term average and ranking as the warmest October through March on record.  Washington experienced record low snowpack because mountain precipitation that normally fell as snow instead fell as rain.

The snowpack deficit then was compounded as precipitation began to lag behind normal levels in early spring and into the summer.  With record spring and summer temperatures, and little to no precipitation over many parts of the state, the snowpack drought morphed into a traditional precipitation drought, causing injury to crops and aquatic species.  Many rivers and streams experienced record low flows.

2015 Drought economic losses

An interim study of crop losses by the Washington Department of Agriculture estimates the economic impact of the 2015 drought on the state’s agricultural industry at more than $335 million.  The total is expected to increase as the drought affected the quality and quantity of some Washington crops going to market in coming months.

Ecology committed $6.7 million in drought relief funding for 2015

The 2015 Legislature approved $16 million in drought relief funding for use in 2015 and 2016.  As of December. 1, 2015, Ecology has committed $6.7 million of the total.

Water Supply Information



SNOTEL Current Snow Water Equivalent - % of Normal by basin

USGS Current Streamflow

Drought Monitor Map

2014-15 Drought: Groundwater Level/Storage Response in Washington State