New law improves capabilities for drought response and preparedness – Dept of Ecology

Some good news during this bad year.

A bill initiated by the state Department of Ecology to deal with drought, ESB 1622, passed the state legislature in March and was signed by Gov. Inslee on March 27. The new law streamlines the state’s response to drought emergencies. It facilitates interagency cooperation, eases the flow of money from the legislature to the Department of Ecology so it can help alleviate drought-related hardships, and expands the types of projects funded during a drought emergency. The new law also authorizes issuing a “drought advisory warning” ahead of an emergency.

Before this new law, state agencies could help support water users during drought emergencies, but had little authority to provide support before one was declared. Now, when DOE have funds available, they can help water users invest in projects that will build their resiliency to drought conditions and water shortages before the emergency occurs. These projects might include constructing a back-up well for a small community, helping a farmer invest in water conservation measures, or constructing emergency water intakes for fish hatcheries and rescuing stranded fish.

Under authority provided by the new law, DOE also will explore a creative way to lease water rights during times of drought. In past drought years, DOE would lease water rights from water users who could forgo using their water to keep it instream for fish. The challenge, however, was finding water rights to lease during a drought. The few rights that were available were expensive.

DOE will launch a pilot program to explore entering into long-term water right leases. These leases will be negotiated ahead of time and could last for up to four years. If a drought were declared during that period, DOE could “activate” the agreement and lease the water for a pre-determined price. These long-term leases will act almost as insurance, providing certainty to both water users and the state. This is a tool that’s been lauded by experts, but only tried in a few places. DOE is excited to lead the country in exploring this innovative tool.

(Dept of Ecology)

A state drought law is passed

Sunshine Coast bans all watering, moves to Stage 4 restrictions – CBC

Our neighbors to the north have moved to banning all outside tap water use. I assume we are not far behind. Or should be!

The Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) declared Stage 4 water restrictions Tuesday morning, banning all outdoor tap water use, effective Thursday, Aug. 13. It’s believed to be the first region in B.C. to enact such a ban. Residential and commercial water users are subject to the new rules, as the district says only commercial food growers with farm status and water meters are exempt from the ban. (CBC)

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/sunshine-coast-bans-all-watering-moves-to-stage-4-restrictions-1.3186965

Port Townsend City Council puts water restrictions into effect – PDN

So we are now in Phase 1 drought condition.The city is looking for everyone to effect a 10% reduction in water use. Please water only on every other day, which frankly, if you are doing it correctly, you should already be doing! Your ornamentals, if they are not native and drought tolerant, should be only watered deeply once a week. I’ve noticed that my drought tolerant natives and grasses are not seeming to need any water this summer. Soak the roots of the most vulnerable ones. The mill is being addressed separately.Odd that the Co-op is using more water than Safeway!? Charlie Bermant reports.

The Port Townsend City Council on Monday night unanimously approved Stage 1 water restrictions that include requiring outdoor watering on alternate days.

http://www.peninsuladailynews.com/article/20150804/NEWS/308049981/port-townsend-city-council-puts-water-restrictions-into-effect

Dry Days Bring Ferocious Start to Fire Season – New York Times

The Times puts our current fire situation, caused by the drought, into perspective. This gives us the view from the Mexican border to Alaska. It’s all of a piece. We are a long ways from being out of the woods on this, and if it is the new normal, we are going to need to find new sources of water for towns like Port Townsend.

Officials are warning about the potential for more catastrophe in the months ahead, as drought, heat and climate change leave the landscape ever thirstier.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/02/us/dry-days-in-west-bring-ferocious-start-to-fire-season.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=second-column-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

‘The Blob’ may warm Puget Sound’s waters, hurt marine life – Seattle Times

The story here is a good quick overview of the big picture of climate change that we are facing this year and likely into next. The existing conditions are possibly going to make the upcoming ones worse. The fact that the Pacific waters are 7 degrees above normal is astonishing, and that Puget Sound waters are up to 4 degrees warmer adds to that impact. We need to get very serious about the drought’s impacts, and having just passed the city street sweeper machine, out using drinking water to wash the edges of our roads, makes it very frustrating that our city government is so cavalier with water when they are on the other hand asking us to conserve.

Scientists say they are concerned about the continued ecological effects of the unusually warm and dry conditions in the Puget Sound region this summer.

http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/weather/the-blob-warms-puget-sounds-waters-hurts-marine-life/?utm_source=Sightline%20Institute&utm_medium=web-email&utm_campaign=Sightline%20News%20Selections

As salmon vanish in the dry Pacific Northwest, so does Native heritage – Washington Post

A good overview of the issues for the general public. Most of us are aware of salmon, their life cycles and the tribes that rely on them. But if you know someone that lives elsewhere and is unaware of the issues, this is a good starting point. Done by a well known environmental writer from the East Coast.

As a drought tightens its grip on the Pacific Northwest, burning away mountain snow and warming rivers, state officials and Native American tribes are becoming increasingly worried that one of the region’s most precious resources — wild salmon — might disappear. Native Americans, who for centuries have relied on salmon for food and ceremonial rituals, say the area’s five species of salmon have been declining for years, but the current threat is worse than anything they have seen. Darrly Fears reports. (Washington Post)

http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/as-salmon-vanish-in-the-dry-pacific-northwest-so-does-native-heritage/2015/07/30/2ae9f7a6-2f14-11e5-8f36-18d1d501920d_story.html

The Drought and you -Tip #1

As we head into the end of July with no rain in sight, and no letup of the drought, there’s some common sense stuff all of us should be doing. I’m not going to bore you with PowerPoint slides and endless lectures. Let’s break this down into bite sized pieces. So here’s Drought Tip #1 – Stop watering your lawns. I have seen some of you out there watering your lawns, and I don’t mean your gardens or expensive landscape. There is no reason to be watering your lawn on the Olympic Peninsula in the summer. The drill is to let it go brown all summer, and let it go green in the winter. That’s how nature works with lawns. The grass will die back but come back in the winter. Trust me. I’ve been doing this for over 16 years here. For those living in cities here, like Port Townsend, you are draining your drinking and bathing water for your lawn, and there might not be enough by summer’s end for you to drink!  For those in the county, you are lowering the water table on your well, which may go dry as they have in California by the thousands this year.

According to the Grace Communication Foundation –

Irrigating a 1,000 square foot lawn with just a half an inch of water takes about 330 gallons!

That translates into a lot of flushes in your toilet,(depending on your toilet capacity) or emptying your hot water heater (50 gallons) about 6.5 times!

So unless you are growing food or expensive landscaping, let it go brown! Thanks.

Lack of water could temporarily shut down Port Townsend Paper Corp. mill – PDN

Charlie Berman reports on the ongoing discussions between the city of Port Townsend and the PT Paper Mill Corp. As stated in the article, it appears that the City is using approx. 2 Million gallons a day (previous estimates I’ve read placed it at 1 M gallons but perhaps this is based on older information). The mill uses approx 8 Million gallons a day currently,and even in temporary shutdown could still use a significant amount. Read the whole story and support local journalism by subscribing to the Peninsula Daily News.

http://www.peninsuladailynews.com/article/20150720/NEWS/307209975/lack-of-water-could-temporarily-shut-down-port-townsend-paper-corp

How will the Pacific Northwest change when its glaciers are gone? -Living on Earth

I’ve read that there is a creation myth in a South American tribe that states that “when the snows leave the mountains the world will end”. Here’s a modern update to that story, as it is happening.

Glaciers set the Pacific Northwest apart and are essential for supplying the region’s drinking water, hydropower and for ensuring the survival of the region’s iconic salmon. But disappearing glaciers make the Northwest uniquely vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Washington has more glaciers than any other state, except Alaska. Some 376 glaciers feed the Skagit River. That number alone sets the Evergreen State apart from the rest of the country, but it also makes it uniquely vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Robert Boos and Ashley Ahearn report. (Living on Earth/PRI)

http://www.pri.org/stories/2015-07-19/loss-glaciers-will-have-unique-effects-pacific-northwest

Level 4 drought declared for South Coast and Lower Fraser – CBC

The drought from the perspective of BC government has reached a serious milestone.

Conditions are so dry in B.C’s Lower Mainland, Sunshine Coast and Fraser Valley that the provincial government has raised the drought rating to the highest category — Level 4 — and are warning that if things get worse, water shortages could affect people, industry and agriculture. (CBC)

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/level-4-drought-declared-for-south-coast-and-lower-fraser-1.3153654

See also: See also: Record warm temperatures to have years-long effect on B.C. salmon stocks: scientisthttp://www.vancouversun.com/news/metro/Recordwarmtemperatureshaveyearslongeffectsalmonstocks/11213948/story.html
(Canadian Pres)

A Record-Breaking No-Snow Year for the Olympics – Olympic Park Associates

If you think we can be a bit smug about California’s ongoing drought, think again. We are experiencing, this year, an unprecedented lack of snow in the exact places that need to have it. We are entering uncharted territory. By local author, Tim McNulty.

The data from Olympic National Park’s May 1, 2015, snow survey are in and the results are alarming. All snow survey and automated Snotel sites in the park were empty of snow, indicating a zero percent snowpack.

Snow remains on the higher peaks, but it is the mountain basin snow sites that indicate how much moisture will be available for rivers, water supplies, and salmon later in the summer. May is a time when the Olympic snowpack is typically near its peak.

Park science technician Bill Baccus, who monitors the snowpack monthly throughout the spring, points to Cox Valley, at the head of Morse Creek, as an example. Most years, the site would have over six-and-a-half feet of snow in May. This year the site was bare.

http://www.olympicparkassociates.org/index.html

Island drought imperils salmon-spawning grounds

Rivers and streams throughout Vancouver Island are drying to trickles after a two-month drought and fears are growing that salmon will not be able to reach spawning grounds. Andrew Thomson, federal Fisheries and Oceans south coast area director, said his department, helped by volunteers, salmon enhancement societies and First Nations, are searching for ways to help the fish if rain doesn’t fall.

http://www.timescolonist.com/news/Island+drought+imperils+salmon+spawning+grounds/7354934/story.html

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