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Water outlook:

So far, so good

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The Yakima River shows water levels are above normal for this time of year, which is a good sign for farmers following a difficult water year in 2005.

If snowpack, precipitation and reservoir percentages are any indication, 2006 could be a good year water-wise.

Sunnyside Valley Irrigation District Assistant Manager of Operations Don Schramm told the Sunnyside Division of Yakima County Irrigation Project Board of Control that snowpack levels are at 138 percent of average.

"It's looking good," Schramm said. "If you're a skier, you know that."

But if that wasn't good enough news in itself, precipitation has been above average as well.

Schramm said total precipitation from Oct. 1 to Feb. 6 has been 122 percent of average.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is reporting that in the upper Yakima basin, precipitation numbers have been 131 percent of normal. In the lower Yakima basin, levels have been 146 percent of normal.

Reservoir capacity is 70 percent of average for this year, too, Schramm said.

Despite the optimism, things could happen in the next few months that could hurt the water supply.

"It's too early to make a prediction (about the water supply)," he said.

A flood in February or March could also hurt the irrigation water supply levels, Schramm said.

He said it's important to know what certain numbers mean in relation to the water supply.

Though reservoir capacity is important, Schramm said only 40 percent of the water used in the area comes from water stored in reservoirs in the winter.

The other 60 percent comes from the mountain snowpack. As the snow melts throughout the spring and summer months, water flows down and refills the reservoirs.

"That's why the snowpack is so important," he said. "If we don't have snowpack we're going to have a tough year."

But, Schramm said all these numbers are a good sign of things to come this year.

"As long as we hold it, we'll be in pretty good shape," he said of the snowpack.

Forecasts look good for more precipitation in the Valley and mountain areas with the chance of rain or snow throughout most of the rest of this week.

The Reclamation Bureau's Yakima Project contains five major storage reservoirs in Kittitas and Yakima counties. They include Keechelus, Kachess, Cle Elum, Bumping and Rimrock reservoirs.

Information on water stored in the reservoirs is available online at www.usbr.gov/pn/hydromet/ya

kima/yaktea.html

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