Snohomish County won’t be able to escape the summer drought that Gov. Christine Gregoire has been warning the state to get ready for, according to snowpack measurements taken last week.
Snow depth measured April 1 at Stickney Ridge in the Sultan Basin is 19.5 inches, only 21 percent of normal, said Bruce Meaker, a senior manager in water resources at Snohomish County PUD.
Most local residents will not feel the effects of a drought because 80 percent of the county gets its water from Spada Lake, the massive reservoir in the Sultan Basin that still has two-thirds of its capacity available for use, Meaker said.
“It could not rain a drop and we wouldn’t go dry for probably six months,” he said.
Still, those not tapped into the reservoir managed by the PUD and the city of Everett could run into trouble this summer, especially those on shallow wells.
“Clearly those people who are dependent on groundwater are going to have to be very careful and creative about their water use,” Meaker said.
As in other spots along the Cascades, warm rainy spells that occurred during the middle of this winter melted much of the snow in the mountains.
A combined snowpack measurement from the Cedar, Snoqualmie, Skykomish and Tolt basins was 26 percent of normal on April 1, while farther north, snowpack was at 33 percent in the Baker, Skagit and Nooksack water basins.
The recent rain and snow has caused those numbers to inch up slightly since Gregoire declared a statewide drought on March 11.
Still, the region isn’t going to escape from the clutches of the drought that easily, said Curt Hart, a spokesman for the state Department of Ecology, the department that is tracking the drought for the governor.
“Our normal weather pattern has come back, and that’s good news,” Hart said. “We’re going into the spring with a big deficit. We’d have to have the wettest spring on record to pull out of this.”
The dry and warm winter that graced Snohomish County is part of a local trend, Meaker said.
“We’ve been in a dry period for 33 months, since July of 2002,” he said.
The PUD has been measuring snowpack in the Sultan Basin since 1986.
“This is the third-lowest snowpack that we’ve measured,” Meaker said. “It’s not like we haven’t seen conditions like this before.”
Spada Lake is mostly dependent on rainfall, Meaker said. Since July 1, 116.6 inches of rain have fallen at the lake. Normal precipitation for the same period is 132.5 inches.
There was 7.1 inches of actual water content in the snow the PUD measured on Stickney Ridge. That’s 36 percent of normal.
Lukas Velush is a reporter with The Herald in Everett.