Gov. Inslee declares drought emergency for nearly all of Washington
Gov. Jay Inslee announced Wednesday that he is declaring a statewide drought emergency for most of Washington state, excepting Tacoma, Seattle, and Everett metropolitan areas.
A drought emergency is typically triggered when the state’s water supply projects below 75% of average, with “risk of undue hardship to water users and uses.”
By declaring an emergency, the Washington Department of Ecology will be able to expedite processing for emergency drought permits, as well as temporary transfers of water rights, funding assistance for public entities, and more.
Washington’s main efforts will be focused on providing aid to the agricultural industry, protecting public water supplies, and preserving fish populations. Outside of that, the state’s authority to explicitly restrict the use of water at the local level is limited in comparison to other states, with more of a focus on “a range of regulatory, coordination, and support roles.”
“The state may restrict the water use of local governments only insofar as it is necessary to protect the seniority of other water rights or to stop the waste of water,” the state’s drought contingency plan reads. “Thus, Washington can be distinguished from California and other states in which water resource regulators have required cities to reduce their water demand by certain percentages.”
“Washington State has municipal water efficiency standards, but these standards apply uniformly to municipal water supplies, irrespective of drought periods,” it continues.
This comes during a period of significant dry weather, sparking wildfires across the state. That’s played out in Seattle in the form of 29 straight days without rain, now over halfway to the city’s previous record of 55 days set in 2017.
During a Wednesday press conference, Gov. Inslee expressed concerns over the role climate change has played in the state’s drought conditions.