The amount of water some Yakima Basin users can expect to get continues to decline.
The latest estimate from the federal Bureau of Reclamation means some Yakima River water users like the Roza and Kennewick irrigation districts may only get 47 percent of their normal water supply.
“Water supply conditions did not improve in April and the Yakima Basin reservoirs have been used to help meet demands since April 15,” said Chuck Garner, Yakima Project River Operations supervisor. “This is the second earliest date on record that we’ve started using storage to meet demands.”
It’s possible the estimated water supply will continue to decline, depending on how much precipitation spring brings.
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“Snow pack is at an all-time low and natural stream flows are near what we’d normally expect in June or early July,” Garner said.
The Columbia Irrigation District and other users with senior water rights issued before 1905 will get their full water amount, because those rights can't be limited by the state or federal government.
Kennewick Irrigation District’s water rights are senior but proratable, meaning its water will be reduced based on availability. Roza’s water rights can be limited. Benton and Sunnyside Valley irrigation districts have some water the government can’t limit, but they also have some water that can be cut back in a drought year.
Roza Irrigation District is trying to soften the blow from the drought by leasing water for one-time use from property owners within the neighboring Sunnyside Valley Irrigation District.
Roza’s board meets Tuesday and is expected to consider other actions, including a 20-day shutdown of the district’s system during May to conserve water for later in the year. Staff has recommended a shutdown start May 11 should the board decide to move forward on that.
KID officials expect to receive more than the 47 percent estimate, since the irrigation district benefits from the return flows of other Yakima Basin water users, but it won’t be a full supply.
Homeowners are being asked to limit watering to twice a week, for about 30 minutes each time.
Gov. Jay Inslee declared a drought emergency for the Yakima Basin and some other areas in March, because of limited mountain snowpacks. That declaration has been extended to cover nearly half of the state.