An abundant supply of fresh water is something we normally take for granted on the Olympic Peninsula. However, in the event the majority of winter precipitation falls as rain rather than snow in the mountains, the result can be an extremely low snowpack in the Olympic mountains. Snowpack is like a frozen reservoir for river basins, in a typical year accumulating over the winter and slowly melting through the spring and summer, providing a water supply for rivers and streams. When this doesn't occur, a Water Shortage Plan may be put into effect. Following are the five stages of the Water Shortage Plan:
STAGE I - Internal Preparations
The City of Port Angeles declares a Stage I Water Shortage. A water shortage is anticipated, but not immediate. This action may be triggered by snowpack below 50% of normal by April 30.
STAGE II - Voluntary Conservation
The City of Port Angeles declares a Stage II Water Shortage. Immediate voluntary reductions in consumption are requested. This action may be triggered by in-stream flows in the Elwha River between 400 and 500 cubic feet per second (cfs), as measured at the USGS McDonald Bridge gauge.
STAGE III - Outdoor Restrictions
The City of Port Angeles declares a Stage III Water Shortage. Water supplies are critically impacted, and the demand for water must be reduced. Based on street address number, ODD- EVEN voluntary outdoor sprinkling restrictions shall be implemented. Intensive public information is necessary to stabilize the water shortage without becoming an emergency. This action will be reviewed and may be triggered by in-stream flows in the Elwha River below 300 cubic feet per second for more than 5 days, as measured at the McDonald Bridge gauge, along with other factors.
STAGE IV - Mandatory Outdoor Restrictions and Indoor Conservation
The City of Port Angeles declares a Stage IV Water Shortage. Emergency conditions exist where maximum flow reduction is immediately required. Only essential water uses are allowed, which includes commercial non-turf related horticultural operations and home gardens. Commercial and residential turf or lawn watering is not allowed. This action will be reviewed and may be triggered by in-stream flows in the Elwha River below 200 cubic feet per second for more than 5 days, as measured at the McDonald Bridge gauge, along with other factors.
STAGE V - Water Rationing
The City of Port Angeles declares an extreme water shortage and implements water rationing. Emergency water distribution may be necessary for customers without water. A Stage V Water Shortage will only be declared as the result of a regional disaster or infrastructure failure.
The latest information on the process of declaring drought, as well as maps showing the evolution of the drought declarations, can be found on the Washington State Department of Ecology website. Their site also includes many more links to drought information.
Be Water Smart, Not Water Short
Water conservation - using water efficiently and avoiding waste - is fundamental to ensuring water availability in the future. In order to protect our water supply, everyone can practice conservation. In our businesses, schools, and homes, using water more efficiently will lessen the effects of limited water supply.