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Washington Drought Watch 2016

Last revised: August 15, 2016

Watching the water supply

The story of this summer’s water supply conditions continues to be that we’re better off than last year, but there are still dry areas.

The year started off with plentiful rain and snow. Then an early heat wave resulted in record melt of our mountain snowpack, which we rely on to feed rivers and streams in the dry summer months.  Our spring was also drier than normal.  Those worrisome conditions were alleviated in June and July by moderate, near-normal weather that strengthened our water supplies and reduced demand.

The Water Supply Availability Committee (WSAC) is a team of state agency leaders who meet regularly to monitor conditions.  They met on August 11, and determined there areas of concern, but overall we are not hearing reports of negative impacts.  WSAC will meet again in December unless conditions drastically change.

Here is a look at water supply conditions as of August 15, 2016:

Status of supplies

Weather impacts | This summer, we’ve experienced mixed amounts of rain statewide but have been hovering around normal levels.  There are dry areas, including the Yakima River Basin and Nooksack River Basin.  Temperatures have also been near normal this summer, although the current heat is above-average for many areas.

Rivers and streams | About a third of our rivers are registering at below-normal flows, and 2 percent are hitting record lows.  Compare that to last year around this time, when 80 percent of rivers were below normal and 40 percent were setting record lows.

Agriculture | The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation manages several large reservoirs in the Yakima River Basin, an important agricultural center for our state.  Junior water users depending on those reservoirs can currently expect to receive 94 percent of their normal water supply.  Senior water users can expect a full supply.

Fish | Conditions aren’t ideal for fish, but they are much better than last year.  The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is watching water temperatures closely in the Lower Columbia River region, the Snohomish and Stillaguamish systems and in the upper Yakima and Wenatchee basins.  The Columbia main stem and Snake main stem are heating up as usual, so fish managers are watching both fish run timing and temperatures.  WDFW has not heard of any concerns about water temperatures at hatcheries; managers are using tools they received last year and in 2005 (another drought year) to keep things cool for fish.

Drinking water | The public utilities in Seattle, Everett and Tacoma report normal water supply levels.

Blog Posts

Water Supply Information




USGS Current Streamflow

Drought Monitor Map

2016 Spring Update: Groundwater Level/Storage Response in Washington State