State likely won't face drought this year



A cool, wet March and early April has reduced the threat of drought this year, according to state and federal officials.

"It appears Washington probably will avoid any serious drought this year," state Department of Ecology Director Tom Fitzsimmons said. "We are extremely fortunate because most of the West is still facing moderate to extreme drought conditions."

After a relatively warm and dry winter, power producers, farmers, water utilities and fisheries managers were bracing for a tough water year.

But above-normal rain in March and a replenished snowpack in the mountains have brightened the water picture considerably.

Ecology is charged under state law with recommending to the governor whether to declare a drought.

The department issued its favorable assessment of water supplies after consulting with several federal agencies that forecast weather and water supplies, as well as the state departments of Health, Fish and Wildlife and Agriculture.

Improved conditions

"We were concerned because the fall and early winter months of 2002-03 were even drier than the same period in 2000-01 -- and that weather pattern resulted in the second-worst drought in state history," Fitzsimmons.

In South Sound, rainfall for the year stands at 21.42 inches, more than an inch above normal.

Statewide, the 11 river basins where the U.S. National Resource Conservation Service measures snowpack and overall precipitation have all recorded 80 percent to more than 100 percent of average precipitation.

A strong indicator of improved conditions surfaced earlier this week when the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced that irrigators who depend on water from the Yakima Basin Project will receive at least 91 percent of a full supply, up from the March prediction of 71 percent of full supply


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