No drought about it, parts of the North Sound have been quite dry and now the Washington State Dept. of Ecology has declared a drought emergency. Much of Skagit County and the higher elevations of Snohomish County as well as all of Whatcom County are among the 12 counties statewide in the drought emergency declared this week. The rest of the state remains under the drought advisory posted by Ecology on July 5th.
According to the department, drought is declared in Washington when there is less than 75 percent of normal water supply and there is the risk of undue hardship. A drought emergency declaration permits Ecology to process emergency water right permits and transfers. In addition, new legislation passed by lawmakers in Olympia this spring also makes $3 million in emergency drought funds available as grants to support communities, irrigation districts, Tribes and other public entities facing hardships.
So far this year, only the month of April has had above average precipitation. May and June were particularly lacking in rainfall, averaging well below 50 percent across the North Sound and in the Cascades. To top it off, the warm latter part of spring led to an earlier mountain snowmelt that feed the rivers, and now are running below average water levels.
The first meaningful rainfall fell Monday this week since June 20th was welcome, yet was literally a drop in the bucket. The seasonal weather outlook for the rest of the summer through September continues good chances of warmer and drier than average conditions.
Washington State Dept. of Ecology Director Laura Watson said, “This drought is already harming Washington communities, businesses and farms, and it’s another sign of the damage that climate change is causing to our state. Today’s drought declaration will help to rapidly deliver relief to these areas, but we need to also be taking steps to manage water wisely and prepare for a drier future.”
The Departments’ Water Resources Program Manager Ria Berns highlighted, “Climate change is making warm, dry summers more frequent, and droughts more severe. What we’re seeing this year is likely a sign of things to come.”