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Thurston’s Deschutes River watershed added to state’s drought emergency list

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In this installment of The Sacramento Bee's Water-Wise Homeowners video series, landscape architect Donna Dowson teaches drought-conscious homeowners when and how to adjust landscape drip irrigation systems. Brian Nguyen and Ed Fletcher, The Sacra

The Deschutes River watershed in Thurston County is among the vast portions of Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee has added to an emergency drought declaration he first made in April.

On Monday, Inslee expanded the drought emergency declaration to cover nearly half of Washington state because of poor water supply and warmer, drier weather predictions this summer, according to a Department of Ecology news release.

Snow pack is less than half of average for this time of year, according to Ecology. Ecology experts expect the warmer, drier weather to cause the smaller snow pack to melt more quickly, reducing water availability this summer when it is needed most for farms, communities and fish.

Rainfall for the state remains below normal, Ecology said in the release.

“The emergency declaration allows us to expedite emergency water right permitting and make funds available to government entities to address hardships caused by drought conditions,” said Ecology Director Maia Bellon in the news release.

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In all, 24 watersheds were added to the drought emergency list — many on the Olympic peninsula and in the north Cascades.

Here is the list: 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.

The governor announced the initial emergency drought declaration April 4 for the Methow, Okanogan and Upper Yakima basins.

The Seattle, Everett and Tacoma regional water systems report that they have sufficient water supply for people and fish this summer, according to Ecology.

The 2019 Legislature appropriated $2 million for drought response.

There are two factors considered for an emergency drought declaration: Water supply conditions that are or are projected to be at or below 75 percent of average, and a projection of undue hardships. The state last declared a drought emergency in 2015.

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