Department of Ecology issues drought advisory for most of the state

Driest March-April since 1926 prompts first-time use of new early warning tool

Counties included in the drought advisory as of May 27 are outlined in red.

OLYMPIA – Following an extremely dry couple of months, the Department of Ecology has issued a drought advisory for most of Washington state, including all areas east of the Cascade Mountains, portions of southwest Washington and the Washington coast.

March through April was the fourth driest such period for Washington state since 1895. There are growing concerns for farmers and ranchers in Eastern Washington. Early observations of crop stress and expectations for reduced yields are being reported, said Water Resources Planner Jeff Marti. Marti said he’s already heard anecdotal accounts of problems from wheat farmers and hay producers.

Marti warned against getting too optimistic after recent rain in the Spokane area. “We’re dealing with long-term precipitation deficits which take more than a day's rain to alleviate,” he said. “For example, the Spokane Airport has experienced the lowest amount of precipitation for the Feb. 1 to May 24 period, going all the way back to 1881. It needs more than 4 inches of rain to get back to normal.”

While Washington mountains received an above-normal snowpack this year, not all watersheds are fed by melting snow. Springtime precipitation is critical for non-irrigated crops and livestock forage. In a few basins, such as the Pend Oreille, Spokane, Walla Walla, and Snake watersheds, early snowmelt is leaving less than average water levels, and last month’s temperatures were higher than normal for most of Washington.

What is a drought advisory?

A drought advisory provides early warning of a possible drought. It promotes awareness and readiness for water users in areas where drought conditions are developing. Drought advisories are informational only, and include no emergency authorizations or funding. This is the first time the Department of Ecology has issued a drought advisory since it received the authority to do so from the Legislature in 2020.

 

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