After weeks of piecemeal emergency drought declarations across the state, Governor Jay Inslee announced this morning that the entire state of Washington is facing drought.
"Rain has been normal," Inslee said. "What we've lacked has been snow. We're calling it a snowpack drought."
This year's unprecedented low snowpack levels—16 percent of normal—has meant that Washingtonians are seeing things they've never witnessed before, Inslee said. Glacier lilies usually topped with snow, for example, are flourishing on the Olympic Peninsula.
The drought also means that government has to work fast to protect crop losses and fisheries. Some fish are already being transferred to cooler climes, the governor said. The Washington Department of Agriculture has projected $1.2 billion in crop losses during a warm and dry summer, and the Department of Ecology has submitted $9.5 million from the state legislature for drought relief.
The announcement dovetailed with a "grim forecast" for wildfire season, Mary Verner, deputy supervisor for wildfire at the Department of Natural Resources, said at this morning's press conference. Last year's devastating wildfire season tapped out both state and federal budgets, and this year's outlook appears even worse.
So what does this mean for the future? "I'm hoping [this year] is an anomaly, but climate change predictions do include less winter snowpack," DOE director Maia Bellon said.
"I believe that how we respond to the drought that we're in now will really prepare us for the future, in how we face this challenge and our preparation and sustainability in the future," she added.