Watching the water supply

While you’re out there enjoying this warm and dry weather, there’s another side to the story that we’re continuing to track: How these conditions are impacting state water supplies.

We are seeing dry areas around the state. NOAA is forecasting summer to be even drier and warmer than normal, so dry conditions are likely to persist until the fall rains return.
Streamflow map of Washington from July 2018

This map from USGS shows about half of the streamflows in our state are at below-normal levels.Learn more about streamflows at our statewide conditions webpage

Currently, parts of the state (mostly Southwest Washington) are experiencing moderate drought-like conditions. See the U.S. Drought Monitor map below for more detail. However, storage reservoirs for drinking water and irrigation are in good shape.
People and the environment depend on a healthy water supply. Impacts from the current dry conditions will likely most affect irrigators and fish. We’ll continue to track conditions on our website and this blog.

Are we in a drought emergency?

While drought-like conditions are evident, we’re not declaring a drought emergency at this time. Drought emergency declarations for the entire state or part of the state involve a formal, statute-based process. Conditions that could trigger a drought emergency are when water supply in an area is 75 percent of normal and there is an expectation of undue hardship because of deficient water supply. We are watching the situation closely.

Curtailment updates

We issue curtailment orders in parts of the state due to low flows in rivers and streams. Curtailing water use protects senior water right holders and adopted streamflows. Here’s an update:

  • In June, we wrote about curtailing 300 junior water users along the Yakima River and its tributaries. Since then, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced that senior and pro-ratable customers of project water will receive 100 percent of their water supply this summer. This is an improvement over June, when Reclamation had forecasted 96 percent. Due to this revision, which Reclamation attributes to reduced demand during the month of June, we are notifying the junior water right holders in the basin that they may resume their diversions. 
  • In the Methow area, irrigators with interruptible water rights will likely be regulated when river levels drop close to minimum flows. We will provide these water users with a hotline to check if they are allowed to irrigate.

As always, visit our statewide conditions webpage for information on streamflows, temperature, precipitation, and more.

Drought map of Washington, July 10, 2018

We use several tools to assess statewide water supply conditions, including a weekly map from the U.S. Drought Monitor. This week’s map shows abnormal dryness and parts of the state, mostly in southwest Washington, experiencing moderate drought-like conditions.