Half the state of Washington is in a drought

By edited by Mary Elizabeth Williams-Villano

A state of emergency was declared for three Central Washington areas.

It may be hard to picture any part of the legendarily rainy Pacific Northwest as being in a state of drought, but the numbers don't lie: nearly half the state of Washington is currently in one, according to an article on the CurbedSeattle website.

Lower-than-normal rainfall and a diminished snow pack have led to a much lower water supply than the state usually enjoys.

In April, Governor Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency for three Central Washington areas. He recently expanded it to include almost half the state, or 24 out of Washington’s 72 watersheds.

There’s no drought state of emergency in Seattle, Tacoma or Everett. The story states that doesn’t mean that drought-like conditions aren't present in those cities, just that their water supplies aren’t especially worrisome at the moment.

A press release from the governor’s office stated: “Public utilities report that they have sufficient water supply for people and fish this summer. Their water managers are watching the weather forecasts and encourage customers to continue to use water wisely.” All water-saving measures are voluntary at the present time.

According to the United States Drought Monitor, the Washington state drought is classed as mild to moderate. As of May 14, 36.5 percent of the state is abnormally dry (to the point where it affects and slows crop production), and 34.3 percent of the state is in active, moderate drought (to the point where crops are damaged and water-saving measures are advised). 57 percent of the state’s population is affected, which jumps to 85 percent if you include abnormally dry conditions.

The Drought Monitor's map identifies some areas as experiencing drought, such as King County, that aren’t part of the state of emergency. While that county is extremely dry, it has enough water supply to support crops and marine life the immediate future.

As of publication, there was no burn ban in King, Snohomish or Pierce Counties. According to the state Department of Natural Resources, wildfire danger is currently low in western Washington and moderate in eastern Washington.

The general areas in which there is drought include:

The Olympic Peninsula. The vast majority of it starting at the west side of the Hood Canal.

Southwest Washington, the Chehalis area and the very southern parts of Pierce County, plus nearly every place south of the Nisqually River and north of the Cowlitz River.

Central Washington, including the areas around the Okanogan National Forest, the Wenatchee National Forest, the Lake Chelan area, the eastern edges of the Snoqualmie National Forest and the Yakima area. Most every place due south of the Olympic Peninsula down to the Oregon border is included in the state of emergency, including Grays Harbor and Aberdeen.

Northwest Washington. The entire top corner of the state is affected, including the Bellingham and Mount Vernon areas and the Mount Baker National Forest. The San Juan Islands are excluded.

Parts of northeast Washington, although not as affected, include the Colville area and around the Kettle River just below Grand Forks, British Columbia.

The following counties, according to the state, are at least partially affected: Benton, Chelan, Clallam, Cowlitz, Ferry, Grays Harbor, Jefferson, Kittitas, Klickitat, Lewis, Mason, Okanogan, Pacific, Pend Oreille, Pierce, Skagit, Skamania, Snohomish, Stevens, Thurston, Wahkiakum, Whatcom and Yakima.

The Governor’s office also issued a list of drought-affected watersheds. They include the Chelan, Colville, Cowlitz, Deschutes, Elwha-Dungeness, Entiat, Grays-Elochoman, Kennedy-Goldsborough, Kettle, Lower Chehalis, Lower Skagit-Samish, Lower Yakima, Lyre-Hoko, Methow, Naches, Nooksack, Okanogan, Queets-Quinault, Quilcene-Snow, Skokomish-Dosewallips, Soleduc, Stillaguamish, Upper Chehalis, Upper Skagit, Upper Yakima, Wenatchee and Willapa.