Whidbey part of statewide drought emergency

The statewide drought could mean water restriction in the future for some residents.

Whidbey Island is included in the declaration of a statewide drought, which could mean water restriction in the future for some residents.

This week, the Washington Department of Ecology declared a drought emergency for most of the state based on low snowpack, an exceptionally dry winter and forecasts for a dry and warm spring and summer. A statement from the department warns that “there is simply not enough water contained in mountain snow and reservoirs to prevent serious impacts for water users in the months ahead.”

The snowpack shortage could have impact on Oak Harbor residents in the future since city water comes from the Skagit River via waterlines. Oak Harbor and the Navy base contract with Anacortes, which owns a water right on the river and monitors the flow.

The Department of Ecology reports that April through September streamflow forecasts for the Skagit River are 72% of normal, which meets the threshold for drought.

Interim City Administrator Sabrina Combs explained in an email that the city generally follows the direction from Anacortes when it comes to water conservation.

“If a triggering criteria is met, Anacortes will reach out and we will follow our water shortage plan,” she wrote.

Oak Harbor’s water shortage response plan outlines the different stages of response to drought severity. The response begins with the installation of water condition signs and the request for voluntary conservation and increases in severity to, in the case of a critical shortage, mandatory curtailment of non-essential water use and even water rationing.

The rest of the island depends on groundwater, which may be affected over time if drought conditions persist.

“While the magnitude of the drought varies in different parts of the state, the entire state, with the exception of the carveouts in certain large metro areas, meets Washington’s statutory drought threshold of 75% or less of normal water supply and the potential for undue hardship to people or the environment,” an Ecology spokesperson explained in an email.