Drought declaration lifted for Eastern Washington

Unanticipated cool, wet weather in May and June prompted the Washington Department of Ecology to cancel the drought declaration for Central and Eastern Washington. 

Water supply conditions have been much better than expected; in fact, this year marks the second-wettest May through June in Washington since 1895. 

According to state law, a drought can be declared when the water in an area is below 75% of the normal supply and undue hardship is expected. The lowest stream flow forecast in the state – the Colville River, at 86% of normal – is now well above that threshold. Some stream flow forecasts are much higher.

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Unseasonably cool weather over the spring and early summer has preserved the snowpack, which will support late-summer water supply needs, according to Jeff Marti, the Department of Ecology’s statewide drought coordinator.

"Conditions have improved. All areas of the state, including the five watersheds specified in the drought declaration, have received significantly above-normal precipitation," Marti said. "The outlook is much better than forecast back in May."

This year’s conditions are in stark contrast with last year’s. Spring 2021 was the second-driest on record, followed by an unprecedented late-June heatwave that smashed temperature records across the state.

In response, the Department of Ecology issued an emergency drought declaration covering 96% of the state in July 2021. Only Seattle, Everett and Tacoma – cities with ample water storage – escaped the drought designation.

By May of this year, wetter temperatures brought relief to much of the state, but some portions of eastern Washington had yet to fully recover from 2021’s severe conditions. This led the Department of Ecology to extend the drought declaration for five eastern Washington watersheds.  

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However, June saw weather that doubled the usual amount of rain for parts of eastern Washington.

"Conditions have been anything but drought-like," Marti said. "We’ve experienced one of the wettest, coldest springs in recent memory. While the ‘Juneuary’ put a damper on gardening and outdoor activities, it provided a dramatic recovery for water supplies."