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Washington Drought Watch 2016

Last revised: January 29, 2016

Statewide drought declaration expired December 31, 2015; monitoring of water supplies to continue

The Department of Ecology’s statewide drought emergency declaration was not extended into 2016.  Governor Jay Inslee’s Executive Water Emergency Committee (EWEC) has recommended that Ecology not extend the drought declaration at this time although another declaration can be considered if water supply conditions change.

Heavy rains and snow have eliminated the drought in Western Washington and it is rapidly disappearing in Eastern Washington according to the  U.S. Drought Monitor.  EWEC determined that current conditions do not meet the criteria required by law for the declaration of a drought emergency.  Water supplies must be below 75 percent of normal and water users must be suffering hardships from a water shortage or expected to suffer hardships for the declaration of a drought emergency.  Much of Washington’s water supply comes from snowpack accumulations which statewide are more than 100 percent of normal for this time of year.

An emergency drought declaration allows expedited emergency water right permitting and the expenditure of drought relief funds to alleviate hardships from water shortages.  This year, Ecology and other state agencies responding to the drought spent $5.6 million.

Forecasts for January thru March 2016 are for warmer, drier conditions as a result of El Niño.  The State’s Water Supply Advisory Committee will continue to monitor water supply.  The next meeting is scheduled for February 11, 2016.

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.

Washington Water Supply Information



SNOTEL Current Snow Water Equivalent - % of Normal by basin

Drought Monitor Map