Back in May, Governor Inslee declared a statewide drought emergency. Now in July, the U.S. government has declared over 40 percent of Washington State a federal drought disaster area.
Mt. Rainier National Park reports late summer-like conditions:
- On Lower Paradise trails, only some flowers still in bloom: False Hellebore, Gray’s Mountain Lovage, American Bistort, and Subalpine Daisy.
- On Deadhorse Creek and West Side of Skyline Trail, very few flowers. All lupine have gone to seed.
- At Sunrise on July 12th, past peak in general but better at higher elevations.
Washington’s drought began in the winter, when the snowpack in the mountains failed to accumulate. It was a warm winter, if you remember. We had a lot of rain, but without snow to melt throughout the summer there’s a lot less water in our reservoirs, streams, and rivers.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has closed or restricted fishing on more than 30 rivers to help protect fish where drought conditions have reduced flows and warmed up the water.
Water stress is taking its toll on farmers, too. As peach farmer Marilynn Lynn put it,
People will notice shortages of certain products at the farmers market. Produce may be smaller than usual. Farmers are under even more stress than usual during this harvest season. Worry and doubt about next year may show in their faces and tone of voice. I hope that consumers will still support our local farmers and not turn to the convenience and abundance of corporate food systems.
So, What Can You Do?
Conserve water, of course. Take shorter showers, fix dripping faucets, run full loads in the clothes or dish washer, drive a dusty car.
And landscape with plants that use less water. That’s where the Washington Native Plant Society can help.
The Washington Native Plant Society has brochures, plant lists, and guidance documents available to help you plan a garden or landscape that is water efficient and beautiful.
Here are just a few of the resources available on the landscaping page of the Washington Native Plant Society website:
- Water-wise Gardening
- Native Plants for Rain Gardens
- Gardening with Native Plants of Eastern Washington
- A Manual of Native Plant Communities for Urban Areas of the Pacific Northwest Plant lists and design guidelines for preparing landscaping plans using Pacific Northwest native plant communities (5.7 MB pdf).
- A Manual of Native Plant Communities for Urban and Disturbed Areas of the Intermountain Northwest Plant lists and design guidelines for preparing landscaping plans using Intermountain Northwest native plant communities (2.7 MB pdf).
- Gallery of Native Plant Gardens
Watch for WNPS Native Plant Sales in the spring and fall, too.
Have You Made A Water Efficient Garden?
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense® program is sponsoring a #watersavingyard Photo Challenge.
They are looking for photo entries that showcase past or recent landscape transformations with plants that use less water.
The top photos—ones that incorporate both beauty and water-efficient landscapes—will be featured in WaterSense national outreach and at the WaterSmart Innovations Conference in Las Vegas this October.
They offer four ways to enter the WaterSense Photo Challenge:
- Facebook: Upload a photo to the EPA WaterSense Photo Challenge page and encourage your friends and neighbors to vote for it on this site.
- Twitter: Post a photo of your beautiful landscape with the hashtag #watersavingyard. Make sure your settings are set to public before you post.
- Instagram: Post a photo of your beautiful landscape with the hashtag #watersavingyard. Make sure your settings are set to public before you post.
- Email: Send a photo to WaterSense via firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your name, city, and state and list the water-saving plants if you know them.
Take a look at other people’s yards at #watersavingyard Photo Challenge
How is the drought affecting you? Has it changed your summer gardening or hiking?