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Washington’s Plans For Drought in Nearly Half of State

Washington Drought
Department of Ecology

Friday, Washington’s governor declared a drought emergency in about 44 percent of the state, and the Department of Ecology has taken the lead on preparedness.

Leaders from the state departments of Ecology, Health, Fish and Wildlife, Agriculture, and Natural Resources are collaborating with local farmers and governments. With imminent low water supplies for agriculture and fish, Ecology wants to (with the help of state funds) drill emergency wells, amend existing water rights, deepen river channels, and more.

Ecology says the large cities have adequate municipal water storage, but small public systems are under watch. Ginny Stern at the Department of Health says all water systems should work with customers on efficiency.

Ginny Stern: “We ask utilities who may have shallow supplies or supplies that may be very limited in their capacity to start with the basics: find the leaks, manage your use, use only the water that you want and that you need, use it smartly.”

There’s also concern about the upcoming fire season, especially now that Okanogan is listed as a drought area. DNR spokesperson Sandy Kaiser says says they are doing wildfire outreach with fire prone communities, starting this month in Twisp and Omak.

Kaiser: “People can reduce fire risk to their homes and property by keeping dead vegetation off roofs and away from buildings.”

The department of ecology expects drought in 24 river basins, but is now monitoring all 62 basins in the state.

Copyright 2015 Spokane Public Radio

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