Washington Department of Ecology amends drought declaration for Eastern Washington

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SPOKANE, Wash. — The Washington Department of Ecology is taking extra precautions ahead of the summer to prevent drought in the eastern half of the state.

The drought of 2021 left lingering effects on Eastern Washington, causing several watersheds to enter a “drought emergency” status.

Five watersheds, spanning parts of Spokane, Lincoln, Grant, Adams, Whitman, Stevens, Okanogan and Pend Oreille counties, will be affected starting June 1.

During the heatwave in the spring of 2021, the DOE issued an emergency drought declaration for 96-percent of the state. That declaration was set to expire on June 1 of this year, but it was extended until June 1, 2023, but only for about 9-percent of the state.

“2021 saw extreme temperatures and near record-low precipitation across much of the state,” Ecology drought coordinator Jeff Marti said. “In 2022, conditions have been much more normal, but we’re still trying to make up a deficit in some places. Extending the drought declaration for these areas will give us more tools to manage water supplies and respond to changing conditions.”

All other counties east of the Cascade Mountains will be downgraded to “drought advisory” status. Counties west of the Cascades will not have drought conditions.

Impacts from last year’s drought that are expected to continue through this summer include low soil moisture, dried-out ponds, earlier-than-normal curtailments for irrigators in Colville, the Little Spokane River and Hangman Creek, and low reservoir storage in Okanogan County.

READ: Research: Pacific storm clouds strengthened 2021 Northwest heat wave