Current snowpack in 'normal range' despite mild winter
YAKIMA, Wash.- Around this time last year, it seemed like Yakima had snow on the ground throughout the entire winter.
Fast forward to now and you would think we were already in spring with how warm it has been the last couple weeks.
While the valley itself hasn't been getting much snow, Scott Pattee with the Natural Resources Conservation Service said it’s back in the mountains, where it belongs. He said we're right where we should be at this time of year.
“We're around mid-90s. 95-97 percent full in the Yakima Basin right now. So that's right in there of what we call that normal range,” he said.
Pattee is a water supply specialist and said an average snow pack is anywhere between 80 percent to 110 percent full.
He said there should be no reason to panic due to the lack of snow at lower elevations, because the mountains having been getting snow throughout the season.
With a few weeks left of winter, the initial predictions are encouraging but there's still some cause for concern when it comes to growers in the Yakima Valley.
“It only takes a couple of snow events between now and the end of march that could really help, but the reverse of that, it only takes a short couple of warm rains or some warm winds and that could really complicate matters for next year,” Scott Revell said.
Revell is the executive director of the ROZA Irrigation District and said the reservoirs are filling up well but they can't solve the water supply issue alone.
He said reservoirs are about one third of the year's water supply, so having a full snow pack over the next few weeks is crucial for the growing season.
“It's very important, particularly for the tree fruit growers early season,” Revell said. “When you get cold nights like we've had, ideally for frost protect, they would like to run water as early as possible in the season.”
He said if the snow pack does take a hit, then they may have to shave off a few days of irrigation later this year.
Also, he said Turning off the water early can be a huge hit to late season crops like tree fruit and grapes.
“During the 2015 drought the state department of agriculture estimated that total losses were about $77 million in the district,” Revell said.
While the snowpack is looking good as of right now, all eyes will be on the mountains to make sure it stays that way.
Revell said we're still behind compared to last year, but looking better than most.
He said there will be a monthly water supply forecast starting in March to make sure they can be ready for any potential shortages.