How current snowpack levels affect Yakima's water supply - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

How current snowpack levels affect Yakima's water supply

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YAKIMA, WA - Winter snow storms can cause dangerous conditions on the roads, but the water supply from the snow is essential during spring and summer.

Snowpack is important to the Yakima Basin. Since reporter Veronica Padilla moved here from Arizona, there's one thing everyone she meets keeps telling her: this winter has been crazy! 

There's way more snow than normal, so you'd think the water supply in snowpack would be at an all-time high, right?

Not even close.

"The brunt of those storms have been going south into Oregon or even in California, and we've been getting sort of the crumbs of those storms," said Chris Lynch, a Civil Engineer with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. "It's leaving us with an okay supply, we've been getting some snow, but just not an abundance of snow."

Lynch specializes in water and says snowpack is the Yakima Basin's 'sixth reservoir'. But unlike the other five, the agency doesn't have control of how much water it gets.

Despite low snowpack levels, Lynch says rain in the next few months could make up for any ground lost during December and January.

"The reservoirs are nearly half full so that's a reasonable level for this time of year."

Water supply in the snowpack is low. The upper basin is at 70 percent, whereas in the lower basin it's about 80 percent...so could farmers see a shortage of water to irrigate their crops?

"It's no time to panic," said Lynch. "We're in a good situation, but we do need some productive storms to come through to help us on our way to a full water supply."

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