- Associated Press - Thursday, April 2, 2015

KENNEWICK, Wash. (AP) - Drought conditions in the Yakima River Basin likely worsened in March because of low snowfall.

Water managers now believe some Yakima Basin users will receive even less than the 73 percent of their normal water that was previously predicted.

Jeff Marti, the state Department of Ecology’s drought coordinator, told a joint House and Senate committee Wednesday that it’s likely the federal Bureau of Reclamation will lower the amount of water that users such as the Kennewick and Roza irrigation districts will receive.

The Tri-City Herald (https://bit.ly/1Gk2JtD ) reported that the joint committee met for the first time Wednesday.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is expected to issue its next water supply estimate on Monday.

Some snow fell on Snoqualmie Pass on Tuesday night, but it was too little to improve the situation, said Scott Pattee, U.S. Department of Agriculture water supply specialist.

Statewide, the snowpack is at 22 percent of average, Pattee said.

The upper Yakima Basin is at 5 percent of average snowpack, while the lower Yakima Basin is at 28 percent, he said. The Yakima Basin is a major producer of apples, cherries, hops and other agricultural products.

What snow there is continues to melt earlier than normal, Pattee said.

Last month, Gov. Jay Inslee declared a drought emergency for the Yakima Basin, Walla Walla, Wenatchee and the Olympic Peninsula.

Officials are calling it a snowpack drought. The reservoirs for the Yakima Basin are full, but the basin depends on snow to recharge those reservoirs as it melts, and that snowpack isn’t there.

The drought situation this year is different than what the state experienced in recent years, Marti said. While there was normal precipitation statewide, the unusually warm temperatures meant that water fell as rain instead of snow and has flowed to the ocean.

The anticipated water supply in the Yakima Basin is not dire enough to trigger a large state response, Marti said. But that could change.

Major water users in the Yakima Basin can handle the pain if the water supply remains above 70 percent, Marti said.


Information from: Tri-City Herald, https://www.tri-cityherald.com

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