Washington Department of Ecology issues statewide drought advisory

Jul 7, 2023, 11:54 AM | Updated: Aug 14, 2023, 2:15 pm

drought ecology...

A combine harvests wheat, Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021, near Pullman, Wash. Across eastern Washington, a drought the National Weather Service classified as "exceptional" has devastated what is normally the fourth largest wheat crop in the nation. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

The Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) issued a statewide advisory this week warning of possible drought conditions as summer continues.

Washington experienced the warmest May on record this year, which, along with low rainfall, has caused “quickly declining water supplies,” the department said.

Washington wildfires: Season is just warming up with high rain deficits

The advisory, which was issued Wednesday, is only an early warning of possible drought conditions as a way for communities to become aware of possible impacts on their water usage. The DOE said they will monitor the water supply around the state and could call for an official drought declaration to authorize emergency funding for the issue.

Jeff Marti, water resources planner for the DOE, is asking the public to work with them in conserving water as the state prepares for a possible drought.

“Our warm weather arrived a few weeks early this year and really kicked the runoff into overdrive,” Marti said. “Now, as we head into the hottest weeks of the summer, we want people to use water wisely and to be aware of our water supply situation. This drought advisory will help us get that message out.”

An abnormally wet and cold April saw higher than average snowpack in the mountains, but due to the warm May, the snow melted early. The extra snowmelt caused a surge of streamflows, which is now starting to dissipate and is now about 75% of normal.

According to KIRO Newsradio meteorologist Ted Buehner, conditions are dry across the region. In western Washington alone, since the start of the year, interior regions from Portland, Oregon, to Bellingham have a deficit of between six and 10 inches of rain. The coast is even worse, with precipitation deficits of 10 inches to nearly 18 inches below average. And the last measurable rain fell on June 20 across much of the region.

The DOE reports irrigators are already having to deal with the lack of water. But, so far, no shortages in municipal water systems have been reported.

But some water systems have established early conservation restrictions though in order to maintain enough drinking water.

“Climate models suggest the summer will continue to be warmer than normal, but should not reach the extremes seen in 2021 when an unprecedented heat dome shattered temperature records across the state,” the DOE said in their advisory.

A map of drought conditions across the state can be found on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s drought information webpage.

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Washington Department of Ecology issues statewide drought advisory