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2010 Drought

Map of 2015 Drought Declaration Areas

Updated: March 30, 2015

Drought Declared in three regions - Ecology prepares for drought response

Governor Jay Inslee declared a drought on March 13 in three regions of Washington state.  This will open up funding opportunities to address hardships from drought conditions in areas of the state experiencing record low snowpack.

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.  Currently snowpack statewide is 22 percent of normal and the forecast calls for little to no snowfall into the spring and warmer-than-normal temperatures through the summer.

Drought relief work begins

Ecology is beginning its drought-relief work in the three regions where drought has been declared.  We provide funding to lease water rights for irrigators and to boost stream flows for fish.  We also provide technical expertise and grants for drilling emergency wells and deepening existing wells.

Olympic Peninsula

Yakima River Basin


Drought Declaration Regions:

  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.

Forecasts and water supply information

  • The Water Supply Availability Committee (WSAC) meets to discuss information on water supply monitoring and water supply forecasts.
  • Current reports on water supplies in Washington state are available at Washington Water Supply Information.
  • Washington SNOTEL Current Snow Water Equivalent (SWE) % of Normal - View Map
  • Yakima Basin: Bureau of Reclamation announces water rationing for irrigators holding junior water rights.  Ecology is evaluating impacts on the $1.4 billion agricultural industry. – View BOR news release
  • Columbia River mainstem: 82 percent of average for APR-SEP, no mandatory water rationing - View Report

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.

Additional drought and water supply information




Water supply and snowpack updates

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Water Conservation: It all starts with you

Frequently Asked Questions on Drought Preparations

Water Supply Availability Committee (WSAC) - March 2015 Meeting agenda, summary and presentations

Washington Water Supply Information - data portal

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