‘Maybe things are even worse than we thought’: Local experts worry about climate change

SPOKANE, Wash. — Almost all of Washington is now under a drought state of emergency after dry conditions, extreme heat and little precipitation have plagued the state. Local experts have been studying these changes and are worried the path we’re on isn’t a good one.

“I’m surprised that we’re at this point now in 2021 that we were expecting to arrive at in 2050, which makes us wonder maybe things are even worse than we thought,” said Brian Henning, a member of the Spokane Climate Project and a professor at Gonzaga University in the Climate Center.

He says these high temperatures and extended periods of dry weather are on track to become what’s normal in our region.

“This is a little early, but this is consistent with what the climate models are seeing,” he said.

The Climate Project has analyzed changing climate models in our region. You can find their research HERE. Henning says these changes could mean less snow and more rain during the year, causing more floods. He also says these dry spells will be more frequent which will affect dryland farming severely, as we’re seeing now with hindered agriculture production.

The Lands Council is another organization committed to protecting and preserving our environment. Spokane is surrounded by nature, and the Spokane River is one of the many gems. The aquifer is the main water source for thousands of people in our community, but it’s also taking a hit from these conditions.

“I think there’s a misconception that it will always be there,” said Amanda Parrish, the Executive Director for The Lands Council. “As more people come to our beautiful city and our beautiful region, we’re going to see more strains on that resource. With the effects of climate change, and with the effects of these droughts happening more often, that’s going to be another strain.”

More people are having to water their lawns and use water for irrigation purposes. She says it’s not a guarantee we’ll have all this water to freely use in the future.

“I think a lot of us want to increase our watering to keep our landscaping alive, but that is actually exacerbating the effects of low water levels in the Spokane River,” Parrish said. “We’re already at a pretty low level for the river, and we’re not seeing any more precipitation in the forecast.”

She says the current levels are what we would see in September which is concerning. The city is encouraging less household water use to help this problem. You can find resources to conserve water HERE.

Gov. Inslee declared a state of emergency on Wednesday to combat these droughts in every county, except the Seattle metro area. He made the declaration because water supply is 75% below average in most places throughout the state. Now, the Ecology Department has more flexibility and resources to fight these droughts that many hope won’t continue.

“It should be a wake-up call to all of us to try and take significant action to try and reduce those forms of pollution that are causing climate change and plan to be a resilient community,” Henning said.

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