Breaking News
More () »

Washington's drought emergency expands as snow pack hits 50%

Gov. Jay Inslee expanded Washington state's drought emergency declaration as the snow pack diminishes ahead of summer.

Editor's note: The above video is from earlier this year, when climate forecasts began showing a warmer, drier spring and summer.

The drought emergency is expanding to cover nearly half of Washington state as statewide snow pack conditions drop below 50%. 

Gov. Jay Inslee expanded the declaration due to water supply around the state and warmer and drier weather predicted through the summer. 

Department of Ecology researchers expect the summer weather to cause the diminishing snow pack to melt quickly, reducing water availability. 

RELATED: 3.7 million residents living in drought areas

The following 24 watersheds are now added to the emergency drought declaration:

Chelan, Colville, Cowlitz, Deschutes, Elwha-Dungeness, Entiat, Grays-Elochoman, Kennedy-Goldsborough, Kettle, Lower Chehalis, Lower Skagit-Samish, Lower Yakima, Lyre-Hoko, Naches, Nooksack, Queets-Quinault, Quilcene-Snow, Skokomish-Dosewallips, Soleduc, Stillaguamish, Upper Chehalis, Upper Skagit, Wenatchee, and Willapa.

Two factors are considered for a drought declaration: Water supplies currently or projected to be at or below 75% of average, and projection of hardships caused by drought. 

A drought emergency was originally declared April 4 for the Methow, Okanogan, and Upper Yakima basins. 

“The emergency declaration allows us to expedite emergency water right permitting and make funds available to government entities to address hardships caused by drought conditions,” said Ecology Director Maia Bellon.

According to the governor's office, people served by Everett, Seattle, and Tacoma regional water systems have a more positive outlook, with public utilities reporting sufficient water supplies for the summer. 

The 2019 Legislature appropriated $2 million for drought response. 

Before You Leave, Check This Out