Map of July fire outlook for the West. (National Interagency Fire Center)

Map of July fire outlook for the West. (National Interagency Fire Center)

Department of Ecology declares drought emergency in WA

  • Staff report
  • Thursday, July 15, 2021 10:23am
  • Northwest

Staff reports

An historically dry spring and summer, followed by a record-breaking heat wave have affected water supplies across Washington, prompting the Washington Department of Ecology to issue a drought emergency for most of the state. The only areas excluded from the emergency declaration are Seattle, Tacoma and Everett.

In late May, the fourth-driest March through April on record prompted Ecology to issue a drought advisory for 42 counties. Dryness persisted through June. Averaged statewide, March through June precipitation ties 1926 as the second driest such period since 1895. A heat dome in late June brought triple-digit temperatures and smashed all-time records across the state, rapidly worsening drought conditions.

Now Ecology and departments of Fish and Wildlife, Agriculture, and Natural Resources, are reporting signs of stressed fish; farmers and ranchers are being forced to cut back on irrigation; and wildfires are burning through dry vegetation.

“Farmers’ crops are failing and ranchers are losing livestock because of these dry conditions, extreme heat, and lack of water,” Inslee said. “We’re experiencing more droughts in our state as the climate warms. These dry conditions, combined with scorching heat, are putting our way of life at risk. We must continue to act on climate change to protect our state.”

Farmers and ranchers without irrigation in eastern Washington were among the first to feel the effects of the drought, with some reporting up to a 50 percent loss of wheat crops and difficulty finding feed for livestock. Rising water temperatures in the lower Yakima, Okanagan, and Snake rivers reached levels lethal to some fish, including threatened salmon species.

Water supplies in Eastern Washington have dwindled, forcing Ecology to issue curtailments earlier than normal for some irrigators.

There is little hope for relief before fall. According to the Office of the State Climatologist newsletter, the three-month outlook for July through September shows increased chances of above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation for the entire state.

Ecology Director Laura Watson said Washington’s water supplies face an increasingly uncertain future as the impacts of climate change accumulate.

“We’re now in the literal heat of summer and the driest time of year,” said Watson. “As our climate warms, droughts will be more frequent. Focusing on additional water storage, water efficiency and reuse, and changes in agriculture practices will help Washington be more resilient and protect water for communities, farms and fish.”

The only parts of the state not under the drought declaration are the metropolitan centers of the Puget Sound area. Seattle, Tacoma and Everett are expected to have sufficient water storage to meet residential and commercial needs through the summer, and to maintain adequate water levels in nearby rivers to protect fish.

A drought emergency means water supply is projected to be below 75 percent of average, and there is a risk of undue hardship to water users and uses.

A formal drought declaration authorizes Ecology to take certain measures for the purpose of providing emergency drought relief:

· Expedite processing for emergency drought permits

· Process temporary transfers of water rights

· Provide funding assistance for public entities

· Hold public education workshops

Report observations of drought conditions

Individual actions can make a big difference during a drought. Washington residents should check with their local water utility to learn what conservation measures are recommended in their area.

You can also help Ecology monitor the drought by submitting observations and photographs to the Conditions Monitoring Observation System.

Water users worried their water supply is at risk of failing should contact the nearest Department of Ecology Regional Office.

Jimmy.Norris@ecy.wa.gov

300 Desmond Dr. SE Lacey, WA 98503


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@covingtonreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.covingtonreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in Northwest

King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterburg (File Photo)
King County Prosecuting Attorney vows to protect reproductive freedom

Dan Satterberg joins over 80 prosecutors from around the country in their pledge.

Fedor Osipov, 15, flips into Steel Lake in Federal Way during last year's heatwave on June 28, 2021. Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing
Heatwave expected to hit King County

Temperatures will likely reach 90 degrees Fahrenheit on Sunday, June 26, and Monday, June 27.

Judged by XII: A King County Local Dive podcast. The hands shown here belong to Auburn Police Officer Jeffrey Nelson, who has been charged with homicide in the 2019 death of Jesse Sarey.
JUDGED BY XII: Examining Auburn police officer’s grim tattoos

Episode 5 in special podcast series that explores Jeffrey Nelson’s role in the death of Jesse Sarey.

t
Sound Transit Board approves Julie Timm as new CEO at $375,000 per year

She replaces Peter Rogoff who left in May after board voted to replace him

t
Statewide task force to tackle organized retail crime rings

Group brings law enforcement, prosecutors, retailers together to combat growing problem

Photo courtesy of King County.
Officials urge caution when swimming this summer

Cold spring temperatures and larger than normal snowpack have created dangerous conditions

A semiautomatic handgun with a safety cable lock that prevents loading ammunition. (Sound Publishing file photo)
Large-capacity ammo magazine sales ban starts soon in Washington

Starting July 1, a 10-round capacity becomes the limit for sales. Meanwhile, “there is a rush on magazine purchasing.”

t
Oak Harbor man arrested on $1 million bail for alleged hate crime

Yelled threat at Whidbey Island woman; reportedly posted online comments about killing gay people

At Dash Point on June 16, 2022. Henry Stewart-Wood/Sound Publishing
All that the tides reveal: Puget Sound’s hidden intertidal world

Exploring King County beaches during the lowest tide in the last 13 years.

Tsr
No more stolen sisters: How WA is responding to missing and murdered Indigenous people

Across the state, 126 Indigenous people remain missing, with 31 having gone missing in King County.

Judged by XII: A King County Local Dive podcast. The hands shown here belong to Auburn Police Officer Jeffrey Nelson, who has been charged with homicide in the 2019 death of Jesse Sarey.
JUDGED BY XII (Episode 3): Behind the decision to charge a police officer with murder | King County Local Dive

Special podcast series explores Auburn Police Officer Jeffrey Nelson’s role in the death of Jesse Sarey.

Photo courtesy of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
Washington wolf population continues to rise, report shows

In 2021, four new wolf packs were documented in four different counties.