Washington Gov. Jay Inslee declared a statewide drought emergency due to low snowpack Friday.
“It’s really different than anything we’ve ever experienced,” Inslee said. “Impacts are already severe in several areas of the state. Difficult decisions are being made about what crops get priority water and how best to save fish.”
Inslee’s office announced that more than a billion dollars in crops could be lost and that wildfires pose a severe threat as the forecasters anticipate a dry summer.
Inslee noted that while most households will have adequate drinking water, farms and fish could suffer throughout the state with rivers flowing at low levels due to historically low snowpack.
“Conditions have worsened in the last couple of months,” said Dan Partridge, a spokesman with the Washington Department of Ecology.
Partridge said his agency has requested $9.5 million from the legislature to help those affected by the drought access water.
“This is money that can be used for things like deepening existing water wells or in some cases for cities or counties to develop alternative water supplies,” he said.
Maia Bellon of the Washington Department of Ecology told reporters one of the state’s highest priorities is to get water to farmers in the Yakima Basin.
“It’s our richest agricultural region in the state and our highest at-risk area for this drought,” Bellon said.