The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) has issued a drought declaration for twelve counties in the state, including Kittitas and Okanogan.

Ecology spokesperson Jimmy Norris says the declaration is due to environmental conditions which have changed rapidly since the spring.

"We had an early snowmelt and an early runoff, so stream flows peaked really fast in June, but now a lot of them are below normal. So twelve watersheds in as many counties are experiencing drought conditions."

Norris says Ecology will only officially declare a drought when a combination of factors come together.

"We declare a drought when two conditions have been met. The first is that there's less than seventy-five percent of the normal water supply average of the past thirty years. The second criteria for drought is the potential for undue hardship, either to people or the environment."

Declaring a drought emergency allows Ecology to process emergency water right permits and transfers.

New legislation passed earlier this year has also made $3 million in emergency drought relief funds available in support of affected communities, irrigation districts, Tribes and other public entities.

In addition to the two counties in Central Washington, Ecology also declared a drought for Benton, Clallam, Columbia, Jefferson, Klickitat, Skagit, Snohomish, Walla Walla, Whatcom and Yakima Counties.

The remaining 27 counties in the state remain under a drought advisory, which was issued by Ecology on July 5.

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