- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 21, 2015

YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) - The federal Bureau of Reclamation has had to start using stored reservoir water to supplement natural flows early because of a worsening drought in central Washington’s Yakima Basin.

According to a mid-month forecast released by the bureau, some Yakima Basin water users may only get 54 percent of their supply.

Chuck Garner, the bureau’s Yakima Project River Operations supervisor, told the Tri-City Herald ( https://bit.ly/1aP2RF4 ) that weather conditions forced them to use stored reservoir water starting April 15. Typically the stored water in reservoirs is not used until June.

“We had hoped conditions would favor full reservoirs into May and a later start of prorationing,” he said.

Garner says a record low snowpack, the cold weather and the low amount of April precipitation caused a decline in the natural flows.

The five reservoirs that serve the Yakima Basin were full, but can’t store enough water to meet all needs, including the demands of irrigators and municipalities. The basin depends on snow to recharge those reservoirs.

Last month, Gov. Jay Inslee declared a drought emergency for the Yakima Basin, Walla Walla, Wenatchee and the Olympic Peninsula. Officials say low snowpack is the cause of the drought. Normal levels of precipitation were received over the winter, but it fell as rain instead of snow.

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