As summer weather prepares to hit full-force, the local water supply outlook is sitting pretty, said Scott Pattee with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Heavy spring rain and a strong snowpack have put the area in a good position heading into the summer months.
“I think all the normal concerns with a lack of water are pretty much alleviated this year — fisheries agriculture, recreation is going to be great this year as far as rafting on the rivers,” said Pattee, who works in the Washington Snow Survey Office.
The snowpack is melting at a “reasonable” pace, Pattee said, noting that rivers are running high but still normal for this time of year. He anticipates a longer-than-usual runoff season.
Flooding in the Yakima area earlier this season was driven more by torrential rainfall than runoff from the mountains and shouldn’t be a problem going forward, he said.
“I think the biggest question is going to come down to fire danger. In these kinds of conditions, if we start striking off a lot of thunder and lightning situations, that’s not going to be good,” Pattee said. “We know it’s drying out.”
The last really “normal” snowpack year was 2014, he said. “Last year, it was normal until mid-March, then temperatures skyrocketed; 2015 obviously was the record drought.”
According to figures from the National Resources Conservation Service, the Upper Yakima snowpack for the year is at 94 percent of the median, while the Lower Yakima snowpack is sitting at 115 percent.
Both areas are above the median for precipitation for the year, though both are also well below median for May precipitation specifically.
The “water year” measures precipitation since Oct. 1.
“The only ones that are going to be complaining (are) the fly fishermen, because the rivers are going to be too high and too muddy,” Pattee said. “The fish runs are going to be great, and especially after the last two years, that’s really good news for the salmon industry and the steelhead industry.”