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Water Supply Rebounds Across Most Of Northwest After March Storms

On this map of current snow conditions, blues and greens are good. Red, orange and yellow represent below-average snowpack.

Irrigators, hydropower dam operators and tugboat captains are sitting pretty across most of the Northwest, according to the latest regional water supply forecast presented Thursday.

A branch of the National Weather Service offers a regional water supply forecast, which is updated monthly. First, the good news: After a slow start to the water year, key Columbia and Snake River drainages are now caught up or even above normal. 

"Where we had high amounts of snow last month, we have it this month. That is particularly along the Rockies, Bitterroot Mountains and Upper Snake area,” said Portland-based hydrologist Joanne Salerno.

Salerno says this bodes well for farming, electricity production, navigation and fish migration. On the other hand, she says areas that have been “very dry” — including drought-stricken southwest Idaho and southern Oregon — still remain dry.

The National Weather Service boosted the spring runoff forecast past Grand Coulee Dam to 104 percent of normal. Lower down the Columbia River at The Dalles Dam, the forecast runoff is 103 percent of normal.

Southern Oregon's Rogue River is the worst off of our major water arteries. The runoff volume there is projected at around 70 percent of normal. 

Correspondent Tom Banse is an Olympia-based reporter with more than three decades of experience covering Washington and Oregon state government, public policy, business and breaking news stories. Most of his career was spent with public radio's Northwest News Network, but now in semi-retirement his work is appearing on other outlets.