Bureau says there's plenty of water for summer irrigation

Water supplies for the Yakima River Basin are likely to satisfy all irrigation needs this summer, based on the July 1 review of storage facilities and snowpack by the Bureau of Reclamation.

Chuck Garner, Yakima Project River Operations supervisor, announced Thursday that water managers and fisheries can expect above-normal runoff thanks to above-average snowpack and reservoir storage.

The reservoirs are essentially full and natural runoff is expected to provide for demands into early or mid-July, which will save stored water and leave the reservoirs with above-average carryover for next year.

All water users are expected to receive their full water supply. Specific water delivery levels will be determined later when storage begins to decline, likely in early to mid-July.

The bureau estimates this year will be the ninth most prolific in the last 75 years when final results are in this fall.

Chris Lynch, water engineer for the bureau's Yakima Field Office, told the Yakima Herald-Republic that the watershed will produce slightly more than 4 million acre-feet of water.

Predictably, Lynch said, the more prolific years are those that that will be remembered for heavy snows and flooding.

The record year was 1996, when the watershed produced 5.2 million acre-feet and the Yakima Valley suffered heavy flooding, a result of lots of snow and cold temperatures that were followed by heavy rain and a rapid warming trend in February of that year.

Low-lying areas of Benton City, West Richland and Richland were flooded and water closed the highway between Richland and West Richland.

Upstream, the flooding cut off the Nile Valley, northwest of Yakima, inundated parts of Wapato and Toppenish, and left a freeway interchange at Selah under water, the Herald-Republic said.

The Yakima basin's second-most productive year was 1972 with more than 4.9 million acre-feet.

The average amount of total water produced over the 75-year period is 2.98 million acre-feet.

Garner said the remaining snow melt, the summer weather and the irrigation demands still can influence carryover storage. He advises all Yakima basin water users to use their water prudently even with an above-average water year.

For more information, go to the website at www.usbr.gov/pn/hydromet/yakima.