Washington Gov. Jay Inslee declared a drought emergency Monday in 24 watersheds, making public agencies in about half the state eligible for drought-relief grants.
Summer water supplies in the watersheds are expected to be less than 75% of normal, according to the Department of Ecology. The governor declared an emergency in three other watersheds in early April.
“As the climate continues to change, we must be proactive in taking steps to plan for those impacts,” Inslee said in a written statement.
The drought declarations are the first in Washington since a statewide drought in 2015.
Ecology reports the snowpack is melting fast and on Monday was the sixth-lowest in the past 30 years. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts that June, July and August will be warmer than average in Washington.
Lawmakers have set aside $2 million for projects to help farms, fish or water systems. The Department of Ecology plans to begin taking applications for projects in early June.
The grants could fund projects such as drilling emergency wells, trucking in water, leasing water and buying conservation equipment, according to Ecology.
The watersheds named in Monday’s declaration are on both sides of the Cascades and cover all or parts of 23 of the state’s 39 counties. The watersheds are:
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.
On April 4, an emergency was declared in the Methow, Okanogan and Upper Yakima watersheds in Central Washington.
According to a May 8 Ecology analysis, the driest watersheds were projected to have 62% of normal summer water supplies.
Water supplies are near normal in central Puget Sound and above normal in southeast Washington.
Drought conditions have been growing, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Some 34% of Washington was in a “moderate” drought on Thursday, compared to 10% two weeks earlier.
Through the end of the April, 2019 has been the 15th driest on record in Washington. Records go back to 1895. March was especially dry, the fourth driest March on record. Some parts of the state, notably the Palouse and Blue Mountains, have been wet, however.