Drought 2021

A drought emergency has been declared for most of the watersheds in Washington. The drought emergency declaration includes all watersheds except the following:

  • WRIA 7 – Snohomish River basin (Everett water supply)
  • WRIA 8 – Cedar-Sammamish basin (Seattle water supply)
  • WRIA 9 – Duwamish-Green basin (Tacoma water supply)

Based on current conditions and forecasts, the Seattle regional area, Everett, and Tacoma have sufficient water supply for people and fish this summer, and do not meet the drought threshold.

We continue to monitor water supplies and encourage people to use water wisely.

Read the list of counties and watersheds

 

Listen to frequently asked questions about the 2021 drought in Washington or read the transcript.

Areas outside the drought declaration

The three watersheds outside the drought emergency declaration are located in an area covering south Snohomish County and the majority of King County. They provide water for the Seattle regional area, and Everett and Tacoma’s service areas. Benefitting from mountain snowpack and more precipitation, the area was not included in the earlier drought advisory. Municipal water suppliers in these areas have plenty of storage, and redundancies such as groundwater and wells that ensure they can provide water during drought.

Water supply shortages

Streamflows, groundwater levels, and soil moisture are far below normal, with forecasts indicating little likelihood that conditions will improve this summer. These conditions are leading to undue hardship for water users, including small community water systems and farmers.

Drought impacts from around the state

Water users in lower elevation areas of western Washington, Walla Walla, and Methow have faced curtailment due to low local streamflows. Eastern Washington areas had extremely dry soil conditions. The city of Spokane, which operates the second largest water system in the state, asked customers to take steps immediately to use less water during these drought conditions to limit the impacts on water resources. 

Community impacts and support

Many of the areas in the drought emergency are prime agricultural regions and stand to lose valuable crops due to water supply shortages. Fish are also at risk when river and stream flows reach dangerously low levels.

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

Climate projections

Part of our process to project water supplies includes working with state and federal agencies to evaluate climate forecasts. The Office of the Washington State Climatologist and NOAA have forecast warm and dry conditions in the areas declared in drought emergency. For a full report on climate forecasting, visit our Statewide Conditions page. You can also help us monitor the drought by submitting observations and photographs to the Conditions Monitoring Observation System.

Drought relief

A formal drought declaration allows us to provide emergency drought relief by:

  • Expediting processes for Emergency Drought Permits
  • Processing temporary transfers of water rights
  • Holding public education workshops
  • Providing funding assistance for public entities (municipalities, irrigation districts, PUDs, etc.)
  • Regulating junior water users to protect senior water rights

We're in the process of identifying needs and potential funding.

Examples of how we have used funds in past droughts include:

  • Processing emergency water right permits
  • Leasing water from irrigators growing annual crops for instream and out-of-stream uses
  • Funding emergency infrastructure for communities and irrigators
  • Resolving fish passage barriers