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Stream flow outlook iffy

Depending on your location, Washington's summer stream flow forecast could be called "the good, the bad, or the ugly."

Statewide, April through September forecasts vary from 94 percent of average for the Elwha River, to 61 percent for the Yakima River, to 43 percent for the Spokane River, according to the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service's April water supply outlook report.

The conservation service measures the depth and water content of snow at more than 100 locations around the state.

The information is used to estimate how much water will flow down rivers and streams and into reservoirs as the snow melts. April 1 is considered the most important date for determining spring and summer stream flows because after that date, snowpack accumulations typically begin shedding their moisture in the form of stream flow runoff.

Though still below average in most basins, water supply specialist Scott Pattee said a series of late spring storms helped improve - albeit slightly - the summer stream flow outlook for most of Washington's river basins.

"We were on track for another miserably dry month until the very end when we received a gift in the form of heavy mountain snow and valley precipitation," Pattee said. "Until these storms rolled in there wasn't a single station that was on track to having normal precipitation."

Mirroring the snowpack accumulation trends throughout the year, April through September stream flow forecasts vary widely depending on the river basin.

"Once again this year, Washington's water supply outlook is geographically-dependent," Pattee said. "Whether you view the forecast as good, bad or ugly is largely a function of location, location, location."

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