Lack of snowpack isn't just a power problem : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

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Tuesday, February 13, 2001, 12:00 a.m. Pacific

Lack of snowpack isn't just a power problem

The official figures from the monthly Basin Outlook Report show how bad the snowpack situation is in Washington state. Remember it's not just power we are talking about here but a sizable portion of the state's important agricultural sector. Drive along Interstate 90 in the Central Basin near places such as Moses Lake and you will see huge half-mile-diameter center-pivot irrigation systems. They depend on snowpack and stream flow to make the desert bloom with a wide variety of crops.

For example, in the Yakima River basin, one of the important areas for irrigation, the snowpack is at 57 percent of normal. If that does not improve, problems will develop as early as spring when crops start going into the ground.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service said in its Feb. 1 report that not only are snowpack levels low, but also statewide, conditions have worsened from the last report in January.

The situation is getting worse north of the border as well. British Columbia does not take extensive samples of snowpack until February. But some early readings show there is not much snow in B.C. portions of river basins. The most important, of course, is the Columbia River. Environment Canada reported that snowpack on Feb. 1 in the Kootenay and Columbia basins was 47 percent and 54 percent of normal, respectively.

The problem is most severe in the upper Columbia. Canada said a reading near Kicking Horse had a 54-year low record for Feb. 1. Why are B.C. readings important? Water flowing into the Columbia Basin in British Columbia is estimated to be used more than a dozen times as it flows downstream.

-- Martin Thompson (, February 13, 2001

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