Washington state declares drought emergency

The Governor of Washington state has declared a statewide drought emergency, blaming historic lows in the region's snowpacks.

Historic lows in the snowpack have led to water shortages, with early-season wildfires expected

A statewide drought has been declared in Washington State after a historic low in the region's snowpack. (Bailey Range can be seen here in a more usual year.) (Physical Science Dept./nps.gov)

The Governor of Washington state declared a statewide drought emergency Friday, blaming historic lows in the region's snowpacks, which currently sit at 16 per cent below normal levels across the region.

"We're really starting to feel the pain from this snowpack drought," Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement.

"Impacts are already severe in several areas of the state. Difficult decisions are being made about what crops get priority water and how best to save fish."

The state's Department of Agriculture is projecting crop losses for the year at U.S. $1.2 billion.

Irrigation districts in the Yakima Basin are turning off water for long periods in order to conserve water for later in the summer, while in Walla Walla, water is being moved from creek to creek in an attempt to keep water flowing for steelhead, Chinook and bull trout.

Fish are also being physically hauled upstream to cooler water.

The state says that on the Olympic Peninsula, glacier lilies are blooming at elevations that would normally be home to 80 inches of snow at this time.

"We have some tough, challenging months ahead of us. We're ready to bring support and relief to the hardest hit areas of the state. We're going to do everything we can to get through this," Inslee said.

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