Yakima reservoirs

Keechelus Lake and four other Cascade Mountain reservoirs serve the farm-rich Yakima Basin.

Central Washington irrigators with junior water rights in the Yakima Basin are projected to receive 92% of their full allotments this summer, up slightly from May’s forecast, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

The Yakima Project’s five reservoirs Tuesday were at 95% capacity, or 105% of normal. The slight curtailment of water won’t begin until reservoirs stop rising and start receding.

The bureau’s river operations engineer, Chris Lynch, said that probably will happen shortly. Curtailments historically have started around June 20, he said. “I’m thinking it will be about average or within a week of the average, but earlier.”

The bureau projected in early April that junior water right holders would receive 96% of their full allotments. After a dry month, the bureau revised the forecast downward to 91% in early May.

Cool weather lowered irrigators’ demand for water in May and late spring precipitation improved the summer outlook, Lynch said.

Melting snow runs into the reservoirs on the east flank of the Cascades. On Jan. 1, the statewide snowpack was only 48% of normal, but it was 109% of normal by April 1, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The snow has melted into the reservoirs in an orderly fashion, Lynch said.

Curtailment does not affect irrigators with senior water rights. More than half of the water rights in the basin are subject to curtailment.

The bureau will update its forecast in July.

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