Water outlook for summer getting bleak, say 'water managers'

January 21, 2005


SEATTLE Northwest water managers are nervously watching the region's summer water supply melt away.

These Cascade mountains in January look more like they usually do in late spring.
This year, the Washington Cascades in the dead of winter look more like they do in late spring.

The peaks that are usually covered in thick snow are barren. The snow level is receding quickly.

"Right now it's looking really bad. We're way below normal all over the state," said Scott Pattee, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.

In many Cascade watersheds, the snow levels are at 25 percent or worse. We should have half our snow fall for the year by now. And if something doesn't happen soon, it won't just be the ski areas that are hurting.

The reservoirs that serve the thristy communities below may be full now, but they're full of rain water. There is very little snowpack to back them up.

Even though rivers like the Skagit have been at flood stage all week, it's snowpack water that is heading out to sea.

"And wthout a whole lot of water in the bank you can be looking at stream flow issues, water use issues," said Ted Buehner, National Weather Service. "It can affect fisheries downstream, recreation, irrigation, power generation."

What happens up there touches all is us in one way or another, and with these mountains holding 80 to 90 percent of the water that fills our rivers, the outlook at this point is very bleak.

There is still some winter left and water experts aren't ready to panic yet, but the lack of snowpack has already proved costly for ski resorts in our area. All of them, except Crystal Mountain and Mount Baker, are closed or under limited use until it snows again.



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