OLYMPIA, Wash. - A drought emergency was declared in a dozen counties of Washington state on Monday because of early snowmelt, a lack of spring rain and low-flowing streams.
Some wells in Whatcom County in the northwestern part of the state are dry, and one water provider is hauling water in by truck, according to a Monday statement from the Washington Department of Ecology. Another provider will likely start trucking in water soon, officials said.
Ecology spokesperson Jimmy Norris told The Bellingham Herald that about 350 water customers in that area are affected.
"This drought is already harming Washington communities, businesses and farms, and it’s another sign of the damage that climate change is causing to our state," Ecology Director Laura Watson said in the statement, adding that the state needs to prepare for a drier future.
In addition to Whatcom County, the declaration covers portions of Benton, Clallam, Columbia, Jefferson, Kittitas, Klickitat, Okanogan, Skagit, Snohomish, Walla Walla and Yakima counties.
The rest of the state, including the Seattle metropolitan area, is considered to be under a drought advisory.
May and June of this year ranked as the fourth warmest and 11th driest such period since 1895, ecology officials said. July and August are Washington state’s driest months, and the National Weather Service’s long-range forecast shows warmer than normal temperatures and below-average rainfall through October.
The emergency declaration allows state officials to curb water use and makes available $3 million that can be granted out to communities, irrigation districts, tribes and others hurt by the drought.