Water supply outlook still running short

YAKIMA -- Heavy snowfall in the Cascades in late March wasn't enough to improve the summer irrigation water supply outlook, water managers say.

The forecast actually eroded during the month, but better days may be ahead. Precipitation is more than double normal so far in April, thanks to continuing snowstorms.

The current forecast, however, is based on conditions on April 1. It's not good news for some farmers.

Junior water right holders -- including the Kennewick Irrigation District, which is part of the majority of those irrigating in the 460,000-acre Yakima Irrigation Project -- are expected to receive 71 percent of a full supply.

That's why KID is asking all rural and urban customers to water on an odd and even basis to help alleviate pressure problems and to ensure everyone receives adequate water.

It is very important that neighborhoods work together by working out a watering plan to alleviate these potential low pressure problems, KID officials said in a news release. KID also is asking all agricultural customers not to use more than their daily water allotment when ordering water. Excess water will not be available, the district said.

The March 1 forecast suggested 77 percent of a full supply for the proratable users.

Holders of senior water rights, those in existence prior to 1905, will receive a full supply.

The Bureau of Reclamation, which manages the three-county project, said the stormy weather in late March wasn't enough to overcome a dry winter.

"The recent storms certainly give us cause for hope, but the snowpack and reservoirs are far enough below average, making a full recovery unlikely," said Chuck Garner, the project's river operations supervisor.

But since the first of the month, precipitation at the five reservoirs has been 237 percent of normal.

The snow water equivalent in the snowpack in the watershed above Rimrock and Bumping lakes is now 102 percent of average. Upper basin snowpack in the areas above Cle Elum, Keechelus and Kachess reservoirs is at 76 percent of average.

Reservoir storage is approaching 600,000 acre-feet, 56 percent of capacity and 87 percent of average.