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April storm improves 2022 PNW water outlook, drought remains

20220405_wa_text_drought_monitor.png
Map courtesy of NDMC
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The April 7, 2022 edition of the U.S. Drought Monitor, published before this week's rain and snow, depicts the eastern Washington drought region. The U.S. Drought Monitor is jointly produced by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Climatologists say rare April snow along with rain sweeping across the Pacific Northwest this week could increase water supplies, slow snow melt and lengthen the irrigation season.

Impacts, however, will vary by region, and experts predict drought will persist, the Capital Press reported.

Washington state climatologist Nick Bond said irrigators will benefit from April storms, but it won’t be enough to end the eastern Washington drought.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in eastern Washington it would take 159% to 368% of normal precipitation levels over the next two months to end the drought.

A map of Oregon shows the intensity of drought across the state from none to exceptional.
Map courtesy of NDMC
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The April 7, 2022 edition of the U.S. Drought Monitor which is jointly produced by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In Oregon, Larry O’Neill, state climatologist and professor at Oregon State University, said the statewide average snow-water equivalent April 11 was at 69% of normal compared to 57% of normal last week.

But farmers around Oregon face strikingly different outlooks.

“If you’re reliant on irrigation or surface water in the southeastern two-thirds of Oregon, you should have a contingency plan in place and be prepared for water shortages,” said Scott Oviatt, snow survey supervisor for Natural Resources Conservation Service.

20220405_id_text_drought monitor.png
Map courtesy of NDMC
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Drought conditions in Idaho from the April 7, 2022 edition of the U.S. Drought Monitor. The map is jointly produced by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Map courtesy of NDMC.

Idaho has snowpack levels at two-thirds or three-quarters of normal across southern Idaho.

Idaho is expected to have significantly reduced water supplies and low reservoir carryovers from last year, for which farmers should be prepared, according to Erin Whorton, water supply specialist at NRCS’s Idaho Snow Survey. But this storm, she said, could “help alleviate that.”

Updated: April 13, 2022 at 2:47 PM PDT
Addition of U.S. Drought Monitor maps by KNKX staff.
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