Statewide drought unlikely but some areas at risk for water shortages as low snowpack, warm temperatures are forecast for March
The Department of Ecology is preparing to respond to drought emergencies in 2015 as snowpack is significantly below normal in the Olympic and Cascade mountains and warmer-than-normal temperatures are expected to continue through March.
Mountain snowpack is a critically important water supply for many areas of the state. The snowpack is a frozen reservoir that accumulates through the winter and then feeds the state’s rivers and streams through the spring and summer. The winter of 2014-15, however, has been unusually warm with most precipitation falling as rain.
Ecology has requested funds from the 2015 session of the Washington Legislature to respond to drought emergencies should they occur this year. For those suffering hardships from water shortages, Ecology provides technical expertise and financial help in the form of loans and grants for uses such as:
Ecology has also convened monthly meetings of the Water Supply Availability Committee (WSAC), a group of state and federal agencies that monitor water supplies in Washington state. WSAC agencies include the National Weather Service, U.S. Geological Survey, Natural Resources Conservation Service of the USDA, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the Office of the state Climatologist, the Washington state Department of Fish & Wildlife and the state Department of Health.
Water supply conditions and forecasts Water supply information provided by WSAC members shows the following conditions as of the end of February:
Information on water supplies and forecasts for drought in your area
The process of a drought declaration
Under state law Ecology may declare a drought emergency if it determines that all or part of a geographical area is suffering from drought conditions. This is done with the written approval of the Governor, acting under the advice of the Water Supply Availability Committee and the state Executive Water Emergency Committee. The geographical area designated for drought funding must be specified./p>
Unlike most states, Washington has a statutory definition of drought. It requires that two conditions be met and it differs from the drought rating scale applied by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The two conditions are:
Once Ecology declares a drought at the direction of the Governor, Ecology can provide drought relief in the form of loans and grants for uses such as:
On January 21, 2015 Ecology's Jeff Marti presented the Department of Ecology Drought Planning Update to the Senate Agriculture, Water and Rural Economic Development Committee. Here is a copy of the presentation:
Drought and water supply information
You can find additional drought and water supply information at the following links:
Formula for drought: Warm winters with rain, little snow - ECOconnect 02/10/2015
Water Supply Availability Committee (WSAC) - Meeting agenda and presentations
Water Supply Availability Committee (WSAC) Summary Report - October 31, 2014
Washington Water Supply Information - Portal
Drought Insurance Program (DIP) "The legislature tasked OCR with reducing drought risk for interruptible water users"
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