National Water Forecast Predicts Limited Supply in West

Published in the March 2014 Issue Published online: Mar 14, 2014
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A limited water supply is predicted west of the Continental Divide, according to the NRCS National Water and Climate Center (NWCC) data in its first forecast of 2014.

“Right now the West Coast is all red,” said NRCS Hydrologist Tom Perkins, referring to the NRCS’s color-coding, in which red represents severe drought. “Early indications are it will be very dry in the western part of the West, but wetter as you travel east.” NOAA Climate Prediction Center’s seasonal forecast is calling for a milder and somewhat drier winter for much of the West. According to NRCS Meteorologist Jan Curtis there is a very small chance for normal precipitation on the West Coast.

“The North Cascades in Washington might have a normal year, but Oregon and California are unlikely to have normal precipitation,” Curtis said.

NRCS Oregon lead snow surveyor Melissa Webb said she isn’t alarmed just yet.

“Oregon snowpack looks grim right now, but the season is young and storms are on the horizon,” Webb said.Although NRCS streamflow forecasts do not predict drought, they provide information about future water supply in states where snowmelt accounts for the majority of seasonal runoff.

NRCS scientists analyze the snowfall, air temperature, soil moisture and other measurements taken from remote sites to develop the water supply forecasts.

“USDA streamflow forecasts play a vital role in the livelihood of many Americans,” NRCS chief Jason Weller said. “With much of this region greatly affected by drought, our experts will continue to monitor snowpack data and ensure that NRCS is ready to help landowners plan and prepare for water supply conditions.”