Governor authorizes emergency drought declaration for most of the state - but not central Puget Sound

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Gov. Jay Inslee authorized the state Department of Ecology to issue an emergency drought declaration for most of the state Wednesday.

A historically dry spring and summer, followed by a record-breaking heat wave, have affected water supplies across Washington. 

The only areas excluded from the emergency declaration are Seattle, Tacoma and Everett, which are expected to have sufficient water storage to meet residential and commercial needs through the summer, and to maintain adequate water levels in nearby rivers to protect fish.

A drought emergency means water supply is projected to be below 75% of average, and there is a risk of undue hardship to water users and uses. 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

The governor also amended the state's partial burn ban to now also suspend the statutory truck driver hour limitations, to address the interruption in fuel distribution to firefighters. 

It will also allow the National and State Guard to assist firefighters. The governor also declared an emergency in 18 counties due to heat damage to roads and infrastructure. This will trigger Comprehensive Emergency Management Plans and allow for local coordination to assist in addressing the damage in an expedited manner.

The impacts of the drought and extreme heat have been worsened by climate change, according to researchers.

"Our state and its 7.6 million residents are under attack from climate change; it touches every part of our lives right now. It is menacing our world and our way of life in ways that demand and compel our full attention right now," Inslee said. 
"It’s a wave that is breaking on us right now and that’s why you could easily call this the summer of climate change."

Update: added information about central Puget Sound.


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