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Irrigation water supply looks good in 2011

More snowfall than usual and a prediction of cooler temperatures in the days ahead are causing some to be optimistic about the irrigation water supply for later this summer.

"The water year started off great with near to above average precipitation for both October and November," says Scott Pattee, a water supply specialist for the USDA.

Despite a fairly dry start, 2011 should continue the positive trend toward more snow.

"So far, 2011 has been on the dry side, but long range forecasts indicate an increase in storm activity that should bring excellent snow to the mountains," Pattee said.

He added, "Temperatures are forecast to be below average, which could result in additional low elevation snow."

Snow in the mountains means water for growers in the spring and summer.

While the overall forecast for the state looks positive for a good water year in 2011, closer to home there's also room for optimism.

The Lower Yakima River basin, for example, is at 111 percent of average. That means it is 11 percent higher than it typically is this time of year.

Looking ahead, the forecast calls for the Yakima River at Parker to have a stream flow at or better than average.

Whether 2011 will go down as an average or banner year for water in the Yakima Valley and beyond will likely depend on the weather during the next month or so.

"The next few weeks may set the stage for the rest of the season," Pattee says.

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