Snowpack is central to Washington’s fertile valleys

Communities of the Yakima Basin are intimately bound to the river. Flowing like life-giving arteries through the arid landscape, the Yakima River and tributaries provide the majority of water for this vital valley known for its rich agricultural legacy, world-class orchards, and once prolific salmon runs.

Save for its forested headwaters, the landscape is largely scrubland – devoid of rain most of the year. Yet the river provides snaking coils of green floodplains and irrigated crop circles all the way through sagebrush country to the Columbia River confluence. . The rivers that sustain the Yakima Valley don’t get their water from the sky in spring. They swell due to melting snowpack from the Cascade Mountains above. And for the most part, water storage in the Yakima Basin isn’t found in the reservoir system, it’s in the snowpack itself.

Snotel gathers data on snow mass from 700 sites across the western US.

But that snowpack is dwindling. As a result, water security in Yakima and across the American West is increasingly melting away. Data from the SNOTEL network, 700 stations in 13 Western states, reveal a 41% decrease in annual snow mass since 1982, with a snow season shortened by 34

Original Title: Snowpack is central to Washington's fertile valleys
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