As wildfires burn around Washington, the state’s Department of Ecology has declared a climate emergency for most of the state. During a press conference on Wednesday, Governor Jay Inslee said most of the state is unnaturally dry.
“Heat and drought have forced curtailment of water and water use in many places across the state. We are under a state of emergency because of the wildfire risk and we have a ban on most outdoor burning and agricultural burning. This is climate change," he said.
Inslee says the heat and drought the state is experiencing is having an economic effect on the state.
“We sense it in the odors we smell from the rotting shellfish. We sense it in the water temperatures. The lower Snake, the Okanogan and the Yakima rivers have reached levels that are lethal to fish, including threatened salmon species. On land, livestock are being lost. Spring wheat growers have reported as much as a 50% reduction in yield and, in some places, raspberry farmers have lost perhaps half of their crop," he said.
Ecology Director Laura Watson says the state isn’t asking people to conserve water, but she says cities may do that.
The declaration means water supply is projected to be at 75% or lower than average. The declaration does not apply to three Puget Sound-area cities: Seattle, Tacoma and Everett. They are deemed to be ok for now for water supply.