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Expected water volumes from snow pack in Washington show several areas below 50 percent of normal as of March 18, 2015. Click the image to open PDF. (Courtesy USDA/NRCS)

Expected water volumes from snow pack in Washington show several areas below 50 percent of normal as of March 18, 2015. Click the image to open PDF. (Courtesy USDA/NRCS)

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has declared a drought emergency for three areas of the state, setting in motion money, temporary permitting and other relief for those affected by water conditions.

According to the Associated Press, the March 13 declaration was prompted by near record-low mountain snowpack, which supplies much of the water in the regions when it melts in drier summer months. Officials said the worst drought conditions are in the Olympic Peninsula, the east side of the central Cascade Mountains including Yakima and Wenatchee, and the Walla Walla region.

A statewide drought was last declared in 2005. While there’s adequate water right now, officials expect shortages later in the season, said Kirk Cook, a hydrogeologist with the Department of Agriculture. The Department of Ecology provides funding to lease water rights for irrigators and to boost stream flows for fish.

Roza Irrigation District manager Scott Revell told the Yakima Herald-Republic that the drought designation creates more options for his district, which relies on junior rights to serve 72,000 acres in the Yakima Valley. He said the district’s board of directors plans to re-assess whether a midseason shutdown will be necessary or if the district will pursue leasing water after the April water supply forecast is released.

Go to http://www.ecy.wa.gov/drought/ for details on state programs managing the issue.