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Northwest Farmers Prepare For Short Water Year

Satellite images show the difference in the Washington state snowpack between 2013 and 2015.
Washington Department of Ecology
Satellite images show the difference in the Washington state snowpack between 2013 and 2015.

Across the Northwest, farmers are already making tough calls because of this year’s drought. The dismal snowpack is to blame.

A few districts that draw their water off the Yakima River might be the most acute example. Some farmers in the Yakima Valley will get just 60 percent of their normal water. They’re facing questions like: Let the hay field and veggies go fallow to save the cherry trees? Buy expensive water from a neighbor? Or maybe switch to costly drip irrigation?

Scott Ravell is the manager of the Roza Irrigation District. He said that 60 percent is an educated government guess, not a promise. Still, he’s more worried about going into next year with a drained mountain reservoir.

“If we burn through the stored water this year, we will go into the next off season with very little carry-over storage,” Ravell said.

State Ecology officials are looking for people in the mountains who could sell their water to the state for both fish and farmers downstream.

Washington State officials have asked lawmakers for $9 million of drought relief funding this year. Drought has also been declared in the Olympic Peninsula and the Wenatchee and Walla Walla basins.

The state is still closely watching the Okanogan, Methow and Chelan watersheds.

Copyright 2015 Northwest News Network

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.