SEATTLE — While the state as a whole is enjoying a better-than-normal water outlook for the rest of the year, the snowpack in the watershed serving the Central Washington area is below normal.
A water supply specialist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service says Washington is the best in the West with a 112 percent of normal snowpack. The average for other western states is about 75 percent of normal, and Arizona is the lowest at 40 percent.
The service compiled reports from measurements taken April 1, usually the peak time for the mountain snowpack.
Specialist Scott Pattee, who works from an office in Mount Vernon, says about three-quarters of the surface water in the Northwest comes from melting snow. The snowpack measurement is important to utilities, irrigators, fisheries and land managers, as well as river rafters planning their season.
Like the rest of the state, the Yakima River Basin relies heavily on snowpack to supply early-summer water for irrigation and to sustain flows for migratory fish.
But according to a Friday report prepared by Pattee’s office, the water content in the snowpack located above Cle Elum, Keechelus and Kachess lakes is 86 percent of normal. The snowpack water content above Rimrock and Bumping lakes is slightly better at 96 percent of average.
The federal Bureau of Reclamation, which manages the storage and delivery system for the Yakima Irrigation Project, issued an initial summer water supply forecast last month indicating that all basin water users will have adequate supplies of water.
The forecast is based on the snowpack, current reservoir storage, and subsequent precipitation. An updated water supply forecast will be issued Monday.
• Yakima Herald-Republic reporter David Lester contributed to this report.