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2010 Drought

Map of 2015 Drought Declaration Areas

Updated: April 23, 2015

Governor Inslee declares more areas in drought- Ecology in drought response for almost half of Washington

April 21, 2015  The Bureau of Reclamation is releasing a mid-April 2015 Total Water Supply Available forecast for the Yakima Basin because of the decline in reservoir storage and low stream flows.  The TWSA indicates a full water supply for senior water rights during the 2015 irrigation season, but an estimated 54 percent supply for junior water rights.  Reclamation will issue water supply forecasts monthly or as needed at least through July.

On April 17, 2015 Governor Jay Inslee declared a drought in 13 river basins in Washington state.

The drought declarations bring to 24 the total number of Washington’s watersheds in drought emergencies, 44 percent of the total area of the state.

Snowpack statewide has declined to 19 percent of normal, worse than when the last statewide drought was declared in 2005.  Snowpack is like a frozen reservoir for river basins, in a typical year accumulating over the winter and slowly melting through the spring and summer providing a water supply for rivers and stream.  This year run-off from snowmelt for the period April through September is projected to be the lowest on record in the past 64 years.

The 13 river basins declared April 17 to be in drought, like the three regions declared in March, qualified for the declarations because they met this criteria under state law:

  • Water supply in the basins is at 75 percent of normal levels or below
  • Hardships for people, farms and fish are expected because of water shortages resulting from significantly below normal run-off from snowmelt.

Drought relief work under way

Once an area has been declared in drought, it can qualify for drought relief funds that can be used for leasing water rights for irrigators, deepening wells or drilling emergency wells.  Ecology has requested $9 million from the Legislature for drought relief but began its drought relief work with existing funds immediately after Gov Inslee declared drought  March 13 in three regions.

March 13, 2015 Drought Declaration


The March 13 drought declaration regions are:

  1. The east slope of the Central Cascades including the Upper and Lower Yakima, Naches, Wenatchee and Entiat river watersheds.
  2. The Walla Walla River watershed including portions of Walla Walla and Columbia counties.
  3. The Olympic Peninsula,  primarily in Jefferson and Clallam counties.  Specific watersheds include the Quilcene-Snow, Elwha-Dungeness, Lyre-Hoko, Sol Duc-Hoh and Queets-Quinault.

Walla Walla River Basin

Wenatchee River Basin

Olympic Peninsula

Yakima River Basin

Statewide

Emergency Drought Applications


Where a drought emergency has been declared, Ecology is authorized to issue emergency drought permits.  See more information

Forecasts and water supply information

Drought declaration process

State law allows Ecology to declare a drought emergency if we determine 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.

Unlike most states, Washington has a legal 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:

  • An area has to be experiencing or projected to experience a water supply that is below 75 percent of normal, and
  • Water users within those areas will likely incur undue hardships as a result of the shortage.

Once Ecology declares a drought at the direction of the Governor, we can provide drought relief funding for those experiencing hardships and to boost stream flows for fish.

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RESOURCES

Water Conservation: It all starts with you

Frequently Asked Questions on Drought Preparations

Water Supply Availability Committee (WSAC) - April 7, 2015 Meeting agenda and materials

Washington Water Supply Information - data portal

Drought Insurance Program (DIP) "The legislature tasked OCR with reducing drought risk for interruptible water users"

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