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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Drought forces irrigators into early water cutoffs

From staff reports
Several hundred irrigators in north-central and eastern Washington are facing water cutoffs far earlier than normal this year because of drought conditions. With Washington’s snowpack melting a month early, 43 percent of rivers statewide are now running at record-low levels. About 380 irrigators on the Wenatchee, Okanogan, Similkameen, Methow, Colville and Little Spokane rivers are being notified by the Department of Ecology to curtail their water use. Irrigators with junior water rights can have their ability to irrigate restricted when stream flows drop below certain levels. Water users will call a hotline to find out if they can irrigate that day. During normal years, junior water users aren’t typically asked to restrict their use until late September. Junior water users on the Colville River may have their water use regulated for the first time ever this year. The river is currently flowing at 28 percent of normal. “These are really hard times for farms and fish, and many people in the state,” said Department of Ecology Director Maia Bellon. “We’re working hard to provide support and relief across the state to communities and irrigation districts. We’ve asked the Legislature for emergency funding so we can continue our work.” Since June 15, some 40-plus users on the Wenatchee River have been required to stop watering unless stream flows improve. Another 80 users in the Okanogan and Similkameen river watershed began calling the hotline June 23 and have stopped watering. And about 260 users on the Methow, Colville and Little Spokane rivers will be asked to call their hotline beginning the week of June 29.
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