We were up on Mount Rainier last weekend, doing some snowshoeing up at Paradise and hiking a bit lower down. There is a lot less snow than usual, both a thinner snowpack and a higher snowline. And around here, snow = drinking water…. So back home today I took a look into the SNOTEL data and it’s pretty bleak:
Wow, the central Cascades have only nine percent as much snow as “normal” for this time of year. Last winter, when drought seemed to be on everyone’s radar, a wet February brought conditions back up to normal. But we’ve had a warmer winter, and that hasn’t happened this year. So why is nobody panicking?
The WA Department of Ecology’s current drought watch is a bit confusing. They’ve requested drought-emergency funds be set aside, the forecasts predict a warm and dry spring that will exacerbate the problem, and yet they say “Ecology and [the Water Supply Availability Committee] at this time are not anticipating widespread water shortages in Washington in 2015.”
Farmers will know more in the next couple of weeks as determinations are made regarding irrigation uses. Here in the city, though, we’re actually in really good shape. There’s been a decent amount of precipitation this winter — just mostly as rain, not snow — and Seattle’s main municipal reservoirs are filling nicely (I haven’t found quantitative data yet). Unlike some parts of the West where the snowpack itself is the primary reservoir storing water, Seattle has dam-and-lake reservoirs so we’re not directly dependent on snowpack.
So the bottom line is: Don’t panic! Yes, we have very little snow — but plenty of drinking water.