Scientists predict decreasing snowpack, challenging water manage - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Scientists predict decreasing snowpack, challenging water managers to store the water supply longer in summer

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KENNEWICK, WA. -- For farmers in our area, water is critical to their business. Tuesday, officials discussed the future of the water supply in the Columbia Basin, and it includes some potential major changes.

The Columbia River is the lifeblood of our region. Being a very dry place, snowpack and water run off is critical to irrigators, water manager and farmers

Tuesday, the Washington Water Research Center hosted a workshop at the WSU Tri-Cities campus to discuss the water supply and demand forecast for the next 20 years. Scientists predict climate change will continue to make the Pacific Northwest warmer.

What that means is there will be less and less snowpack. By the year 2035, the annual water supply is expected increase by 9%. But that will be in the form of more rain and less snowpack, meaning water managers will have to come up with new ways to store water for longer periods during the summer months. 

"I think it's critical," Tom Tebb from WA Dept. of Ecology said. "Particularly this part of the region in arid Eastern Washington where water is scarce. And we have both the needs for the environment and the out of stream uses. So those competing demands will continue to provide pressure if you will on society and I think it's important for us to plan for that future."

The worry is with decreased snowpack and more rain, there will be less water runoff in the high elevations, decreasing water supply when the demand is the highest in the summer. Lawmakers will use this outlook to protect water supply for the decades to come. 

This workshop is the first of three scheduled in Eastern Washington. Wednesday, the group travels to Wenatchee for an 8:30AM presentation. Another presentation is scheduled on Thursday in Spokane.