2015 Washington Drought Archive

Last updated: September 24, 2015 - This page is being maintained as an archive of past activity and will not be updated.

2015 Drought Photo Archive

Washington Drought 2015

Washington Drought 2015 - Media Briefing Photos in Flickr 09/24/2015

In 2015, Washington State experienced a drought that had impacts on our farms, fish and communities.

Unlike classic droughts characterized by lack of rain, 2015 was the year of the “snowpack drought.”  Washington State had normal or near-normal precipitation over the 2014-2015 winter season.  However, October through March, the average statewide temperature was 40.5 degrees – 4.7 degrees above the 20th century long-term average.  Mountain precipitation that normally fell as snow instead fell as rain.

The snowpack deficit was compounded as precipitation began to lag behind normal levels in early spring and into the summer.  With record spring and summer temperatures, and little to no precipitation over many parts of the state, the snowpack drought morphed into a traditional precipitation drought, causing injury to crops and aquatic species.  Many rivers and streams experienced record low flows. Some cities and towns turned to voluntary or mandatory water use restrictions to save water.

A review of 2015 drought impacts brought some surprising insights about groundwater.  While many streams and rivers bounced back, groundwater levels continued to decline – even in good water years.  (Visit our special groundwater story map report for more information.)  More data will be gathered to help us better understand these declining aquifers and to consider strategies for sustainably managing both surface and groundwater supplies.

2015 Drought Report

The following report describes the statewide response to the 2015 Drought in Washington State:

Drought Response Funding

The 2015 Legislature approved $16 million in drought relief funding for use in 2015 and 2016.  The funding was provided to help communities obtain reliable public water supplies, augment water supplies for farmers and to provide water to support stream flows for fish.  A portion of the money allowed Ecology to provide grants to state and federal agencies, cities, counties, other public entities and tribes.  Ecology committed $6.7 million in funding to support drought projects.

2015 Drought Declaration Process and Timeline

Between March 13 and May 15, 2015, Ecology declared drought regionally, by river basin and then statewide.  Here’s more detail on that process: