Parts of Eastern WA remain in drought emergency

By on Friday, May 27th, 2022 in Columbia Basin News Featured Stories

OLYMPIA – A cool, wet spring brought relief to much of Washington following last year’s drought, however the drought’s effects still linger in parts of Eastern Washington. That has led the Washington Department of Ecology to issue an amended drought declaration for watersheds in eight Eastern Washington counties that go into effect June 1.

Under the amended declaration, watersheds spanning parts of Spokane, Lincoln, Grant, Adams, Whitman, Stevens, Okanogan, and Pend Oreille counties will remain in drought emergency status. All other counties east of the Cascade Mountains will be downgraded to drought advisory status. Counties west of the Cascade Mountains no longer fall under drought conditions.

According to state law, a drought can be declared when the water supply in an area is below 75 percent of normal and there is an expectation of undue hardship. Declaring a drought emergency allows Ecology to process emergency water rights permits and expedite requests for emergency water right transfers.

Ecology issued an emergency drought declaration in July 2021 covering 96 percent of the state. Only Seattle, Everett, and Tacoma – cities with ample water storage – escaped the designation. That declaration was set to expire June 1, 2022. Ecology’s new amended declaration extends that to June 1, 2023 – but only for about 9 percent of the state.

Unlike Washington, most of Oregon remains in moderate to exceptional drought conditions.