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CELP’s Statement on Drought Emergency

We all rely on our water resources, and we need to be doing more to protect them. Conservation on an individual level is great and there are many things you can do to reduce your water use and be water wise. But it is not enough.

Water conservation needs to occur on a larger scale to protect our rivers. The Washington Department of Ecology has the authority to require conservation. When emergency water permits are granted due to drought emergencies, they should include conservation and water use efficiency requirements. We all need to work to protect our water resources and adapt to our conditions, especially during drought. Now is the time to come together and have conversations about how we are going to protect our waters for us all.

Regardless of whether Seattle, Tacoma, and Everett metropolitan areas are the exception to the drought emergency, we should all incorporate water conservation into our individual, family, and business practices. Our waters are in trouble putting our salmon, wildlife, communities, farms, economy, and way of life in danger. We need to work towards increasing conservation efforts in our cities, regions, and state.

CELP is working on outreach around water and drought issues and partnering with others to increase conservation efforts and education. We will continue working to incorporate conservation and water use efficiency requirements into water policies, management, and legislation.

Drought Emergency Declaration

Governor Inslee Press Conference on Climate Change, Drought, and Wildfires

Wednesday, July 14th, a drought emergency was declared. The only areas excluded from the drought emergency are Seattle, Tacoma, and Everett metropolitan areas.
Every part of our state is being threatened by climate change. Governor Inslee mentioned that our great snowpack in April is gone three months later because of climate change and our water resources are in trouble. He talked about the danger to salmon, wildlife, farmers, communities, our economy and more. CELP was happy to hear the Governor also talk about adaptation and needing to take action to deal with the impacts we are already feeling and will continue to face from climate change.

Watch the press conference

Ecology Declares Drought Emergency

WA Dept. of Ecology Director Laura Watson spoke about drought conditions across the state. Ecology, along with the departments of Fish and Wildlife, Agriculture, and Natural Resources, are reporting signs of stressed fish; farmers and ranchers are being forced to cut back on irrigation; and wildfires are burning through dry vegetation.
A formal drought declaration authorizes Ecology to take certain measures for the purpose of providing emergency drought relief:

  • Expedite processing for emergency drought permits
  • Process temporary transfers of water rights
  • Provide funding assistance for public entities
  • Hold public education workshops

Read Ecology’s Press Release

State of our Waters and Climate Change

You could say drought conditions are a surprise because we had a great April snowpack, but with climate change we should be more prepared. Even areas that rely on snowpack are in trouble because of how quickly it has melted, and how quickly glaciers are declining. There are also many areas of the state that rely more on precipitation and have not received anywhere near enough. We had the second driest spring on record and an extreme heat wave in June.  Conditions are only going to get more extreme as the climate warms. We can and should expect increased temperatures, decreased snowpack, earlier peak streamflows, and longer and more intense summer droughts and fire seasons. These trends are expected to increase in intensity, so we need to act now and be better prepared. With warming of 1.5º C, in Washington we will see 38% less snowpack draining into rivers and streams, 23% decrease in spring and summer streamflows, and 67% increase in days with temperatures above 90 °F. Read more.

Learn More about Drought Conditions

Map of Washington’s Drought Levels:

Drought Impact Reporter Map The Drought Impact Reporter (DIR) is an interactive database of drought impacts in the U.S., by location, data, type, and cost built from stakeholder, government, media, and other reports.
U.S. Drought Monitor for Washington This map shows drought conditions across Washington using a five-category system, from Abnormally Dry (D0) conditions to Exceptional Drought (D4). The USDM is a joint effort of the National Drought Mitigation Center, USDA, and NOAA.
Washington Department of Ecology Drought Conditions


Image of a forest with trees blackened and the ground scorched. Smoke rises from the ground and flames are in the background.

Wildfire State of Emergency Burn Ban: July 6th, 2021 Gov. Jay Inslee declared a statewide state of emergency relating to the growing risk of wildfires, including a statewide prohibition on most outdoor and agricultural burning through September 20th, 2021. Read more

Fire season is off to a grim start. With a dry spring and early summer, most of the state is in desperate need of rain. Drought conditions, dry lightening, wind gusts, and high temperatures are making this fire season intense. Fire preparedness had been raised to the highest level of 5. Do your part to prevent fires by heeding burn bans and avoiding activities that could create a spark.

Komo News ‘Looking pretty grim:’ Wildfires torch over 94,000 acres in Wash. state so far

Megadrought and Extreme Heat

New York Times: Climate Change Drove Western Heat Wave’s Extreme Records, Analysis Finds
A rapid analysis of last week’s record-breaking heat found that it would have been virtually impossible without the influence of human-caused climate change.
New York Times: What is a megadrought?
Yes, the West is in extreme drought. But for part of the region, conditions have been bad for decades, rivaling periods in the distant past.
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