Drought declaration lifted for Eastern Washington

SPOKANE, Wash. — The unanticipated cool and wet weather in May and June prompted the Washington Department of Ecology to cancel the drought declaration for Central and Eastern Washington.

The decision came after the second-wettest May through June in Washington since 1895.

According to state law, a drought can be declared when the water supply is below 75 percent than normal. The lowest streamflow forecast in the state, the Colville River, is at 86 percent, which is well above that threshold. Some streamflow forecasts are much higher.

Unseasonably cool weather over the spring and early summer has preserved snowpack, causing it to last longer into the summer, which supports late-summer water supply needs.

“Conditions have improved. All areas of the state, including the five watersheds specified in the drought declaration, have received significantly above-normal precipitation,” said Jeff Marti, the Department of Ecology’s statewide drought coordinator. “The outlook is much better than forecast back in May.”

This year’s conditions are in stark contrast with last year’s. Spring 2021 was the second-driest on record, and then an unprecedented late-June heatwave smashed temperature records across the state.

In response, Ecology issued an emergency drought declaration in July 2021 covering 96% of the state. Only Seattle, Everett and Tacoma, cities with ample water storage, escaped the drought designation.

By May of this year, wetter temperatures brought relief to much of the state, but some portions of eastern Washington had yet to fully recover from 2021’s severe conditions. This led the Department of Ecology to extend the drought declaration for five eastern Washington watersheds.

What followed was weather that doubled the usual amount of rain in June for parts of eastern Washington.

“Conditions have been anything but drought-like,” Marti said. “We’ve experienced one of the wettest, coldest springs in recent memory. While the ‘Juneuary’ put a damper on gardening and outdoor activities, it provided a dramatic recovery for water supplies.”

READ: For the first time since March 2020, there is no severe drought in Washington