Puget Sound region -Nature casts a spell a dry one

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Nature casts a spell a dry one

By David Olson Seattle Times staff reporter

With the Puget Sound region entering what looks like its third week without rain and with the low-elevation snowpack almost gone, the effects of this year's drought are becoming clearer.

The Seattle area had more than double the normal amount of rain for June but "it still didn't do much to offset the deficit we're already in," said Mary Getchell, spokeswoman for the state Department of Ecology. "It's too little, too late."

There's little risk anyone around Puget Sound will run out of water. But some wells in Thurston County are beginning to dry out, which is unusual, Getchell said.

And in King County, the city of Kent has set up yard-watering restrictions and drilled two new wells to supplement the nine it already uses, said Don Wickstrom, city public-works director. Those wells will begin supplying water in the next week or two, he said.

In addition, the city has started buying water from Renton and plans to buy some later this summer from the Highline and Soos Creek water districts.

Other communities also are drilling new wells and buying water from other cities, and that - along with voluntary conservation efforts - should prevent some of the more drastic measures being taken in Eastern Washington, said Rich Hoey, special assistant to state Department of Health Director Gregg Grunenfelder.

On Friday, the Kennewick Irrigation District in the Tri-Cities area began "rolling dry-outs" in an effort to conserve irrigation water.

The Roza Irrigation District near Yakima shut down its canal for three weeks in May and early June to conserve water for the rest of the summer, when crops such as apples and pears most need water, said Ron Van Gundy, general manager for the district.

This year, the Columbia River has its second-lowest steam flow since records were first kept in 1928, according to measurements at The Dalles, Ore.

From a climatological point of view, summer began two weeks early in Seattle, said Ted Buehner, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. It usually begins around July 12, but - with today expected to be the 13th straight day without rain - the weather service is declaring June 28 the beginning of summer.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), July 10, 2001

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