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Drought emergency: Gov. Inslee expands declaration to nearly half of Washington

A map of drought declaration areas provided by the Washington Department of Ecology on May 20, 2019.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Monday expanded the drought emergency to cover nearly half of the state, citing poor water supply conditions along with warmer and drier weather expected through the summer.

On April 4, Inslee announced the initial drought declaration for the Methow, Okanogan and Upper Yakima Basins.

Now 24 more watersheds have been added:

Chelan, Colville, Cowlitz, Deschutes, Elwha-Dungeness, Entiat, Grays-Elochoman, Kennedy-Goldsborough, Kettle, Lower Chehalis, Lower Skagit-Samish, Lower Yakima, Lyre-Hoko, Naches, Nooksack, Queets-Quinault, Quilcene-Snow, Skokomish-Dosewallips, Soleduc, Stillaguamish, Upper Chehalis, Upper Skagit, Wenatchee, and Willapa.

According to the Department of Ecology, the snowpack is less than 50-percent of average for this time of year.

At the same time, meteorologists are predicting warmer and drier conditions through the summer.

“The emergency declaration allows us to expedite emergency water right permitting and make funds available to government entities to address hardships caused by drought conditions,” said Ecology Director Maia Bellon.

The Legislature budgeted about $2 million for drought response in 2019.

State officials said people served by the Seattle, Tacoma and Everett regional water systems “can be assured that their water supplies are in much better shape.”

“These public utilities report that they have sufficient water supply for people and fish this summer,” officials wrote in a news release. “Their water managers are watching the weather forecasts and encourage customers to continue to use water wisely.”

Washington state’s last drought emergency was in 2015.

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