If Rainfall Is Normal, Why Is There A Drought In Washington?

If Rainfall Is Normal, Why Is There A Drought In Washington?

Governor Jay Inslee declared a statewide drought emergency in Washington on Friday. Rainfall in the state has been normal. The snowpack, however, has all but disappeared.

Unlike in California, Washington’s drought isn’t going to impact the water supply in the most populated areas. Those reservoirs are in good shape. It’s the rivers and streams that supply irrigation to agricultural areas that are suffering the most — to say nothing of the effect on wildlife and the heightened risk of rampant wildfires. Without run-off from snow melt, rivers aren’t resupplied with water.

Statewide, the snowpack stands at 16% of normal. The last time a drought was declared in Washington, in 2005, the snowpack was at 26%.

Maia Bellon, the director of the state Department of Ecology, provided an assessment of the situation:

“The large public utilities have planned well. Our projections show that most households in Washington will have an adequate water supply. Our focus in this snowpack drought is on farms, fish and smaller community water systems.”

The dry conditions will bring an estimated crop loss of $1.2 billion this year. Steelhead, Chinook and bull trout don’t have enough water to swim upstream to their spawning grounds. Instead, they’re probably going to be hauled by truck and then dumped into more abundant waterways.

Tourism and recreation spots are destined to suffer losses, too. Fortunately, the Columbia River, which runs between Washington and Oregon, is fed by snowpack from Canada, which is in much better shape. The dams on the Columbia provide hydroelectricity. But even the Columbia has a lower water flow than usual, which could result in rising energy prices.

There is, of course, no remedy for the situation, not in the short run. Washington’s summer is expected to be warm and dry, exacerbating already critical circumstances.

In the long run, any national approach to climate change will continue to be stymied by conservative Republicans who reflect the attitudes of their constituencies. The belief that climate change is happening is pretty widespread throughout the country, but belief in humans playing a role is not. And, of course, it’s only human behavior that the country has any power to change.

According to research by Yale and Utah State Universities, acceptance that climate change is affected by humans is greatest in the country’s coastal states — like Washington, Oregon, and California, as well as the Northeast. But the coasts can’t go it alone in mandating changes that might impact the trend.

No one has a solution to climate change deniers — unless and until their own spigots run dry.

Feature photo via Wikipedia.

Deborah Montesano is a writer and political activist, who has just been freed from decades of wandering in the Arizona desert. She is now stunned to find herself actually living in progressive heaven — Portland, Oregon. READ MORE BY DEBORAH.

ReverbPress Mobile Apps ReverbPress iOS App ReverbPress Android App ReverbPress App

Deborah Montesano is a writer and political activist, who has just been freed from decades of wandering in the Arizona desert. She is now stunned to find herself actually living in progressive heaven — Portland, Oregon. READ MORE BY DEBORAH.

ReverbPress Mobile Apps ReverbPress iOS App ReverbPress Android App ReverbPress App