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News Release

Normal spring and summer forecast for Washington State

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Contact:
  Gina Kerzmam
State Public Affairs Officer
Natural Resources Conservation Service
509 - 323-2911

For immediate release

SPOKANE, WA (March 26, 2013) – March streamflow forecasts show a decline in nearly every Western state and basin, according to water and climate experts. Washington should expect near normal streamflow this spring and summer.

During the month of February, the National Weather Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service climate stations reported below normal precipitation totals throughout Washington river basins with the exception of the northwest corner and the western Olympics.
The Climate Prediction Center is suggesting that we will remain cooler than normal through the rapidly approaching spring with equal chances of above, below or near normal precipitation.

Although some are at normal levels now, March 1 snowmelt runoff forecasts trends indicated worsening conditions as compared to the February 1 report. Forecasts decreased 5 to 10 percent in Washington.

“Although NRCS’ streamflow forecasts do not directly predict drought, they provide valuable information about future water supply in states where snowmelt accounts for as much as 50 to 80 percent of seasonal runoff,” according to NRCS hydrologist Tom Perkins.

In addition to precipitation, streamflow in the West consists largely of accumulated mountain snow that melts and flows into streams as temperatures warm into spring and summer.

The March forecast is the third of six monthly forecasts issued each year between January and June by the national center. The forecast compares the current level of water content in snowpack in the 12 Western states with historical data to help the region’s farmers, ranchers, water managers, communities and other stakeholders make informed decisions about water use and future availability.

The snowfall, air temperature and numerous other factors taken from remote climate sites ultimately contribute to water supply. Typically, decision-makers and water managers wait until April for a more complete picture that accounts for these variables before making final management decisions.

NRCS will continue to monitor levels across the Western states to provide the most up-to-date water supply information each month. “USDA streamflow forecasts play a vital role in the livelihood of many Americans,” said NRCS State Conservationist Roylene Rides at the Door.  “With much of Washington reliant on surface water supplies, our experts will continue to monitor snowpack data and ensure that NRCS is ready to help landowners plan and prepare for water supply conditions.”

Since 1935, NRCS has conducted snow surveys and issued regular water supply forecasts. NRCS installs, operates and maintains an extensive, automated system called Snow Telemetry, or SNOTEL, designed to collect snowpack and related climatic data in the Western United States and Alaska.

View March’s Snow Survey Water Supply Forecast map or view information by state.

Other resources on drought include the U.S. Drought Monitor and U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook map, which forecast drought conditions through March 31. For information on USDA’s drought efforts, visit www.usda.gov/drought. And to learn more about how NRCS is helping private landowners deal with drought, visit the NRCS site.

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