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DRY measure

The Olympic Peninsula already meets one of two criteria for a drought declaration and, if irrigators are forced to ration their water, it will meet the second.

"There is concern about your area," said Dan Partridge of the state Department of Ecology's water resources program.

"There are no plans at this point for any kind of drought declaration in the Olympic Peninsula, but that could change."

A drought declaration requires a water supply less than 75 percent of normal and a water shortage expected to create undue hardship for some water users.

Droughts can be declared statewide or by county, by river basin or by water resource inventory area. The last statewide drought was declared in 2005.

"You're meeting at least one of the criteria for a drought declaration."

"The water supply has been at less than 75 percent of normal for two or three months now between snow pack and precipitation.

"Ecology hasn't received any reports of what would be considered undue hardship to water users, although I did read with interest the news release from the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Agricultural Water Users Association (see related story)."

Gov. Chris Gregoire released a statement Aug. 3 saying state officials are monitoring any water supply problems that come to their attention.

The state's water supply is determined by the water flow in the Columbia River at The Dalles, Ore., which normally is 107.3 million acre-feet (an acre-foot is enough water to cover an acre to a depth of 1 foot).

In 1980, the state adopted rules requiring that the Columbia's water flow be at least 60 million acre-feet measured April 1 each year at The Dalles Dam.

During the benchmark 1977 drought, the river was flowing at 53.8 million acre-feet or 50 percent of normal.

The forecasted flow in the Columbia River for this year was 89.3 million acre-feet or 83.2 percent but now the river is running at only 74.5 percent of average, or 79.9 million acre-feet.

The "water year" runs from January through July and it's assumed that the water level won't change too much after July, said Michael Millstein, spokesman for the Bonneville Power Administration in Portland, Ore.

So that July figure is the one used as the river's annual stream flow, he said.

"It definitely has dropped off during year. It was 92 percent in April and then 91 percent in May, 89 percent in June and July was 74.5 percent of average.

"So it's definitely dropping off. Each month the flow is dropping off, the precipitation was much slower than earlier in the year," Partridge said.

Reach Brian Gawley at bgawley@sequimgazette.com.

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