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If you are looking for some good news, look up, really up. According to the latest report, the snowpack in the upper elevation looks strong.

Regardless of December snow storms and January warming spells, March is when farmers and others dependent on spring/summer water supply take snowpack measurement seriously.

The report from the Bureau of Reclamation last week stated that Yakima Basin precipitation was as 114.9% as of March 1, the Yakima Basin snow water equivalent was at 103% of average and the total system storage volume of Yakima Basin reservoirs is at 107%.

All those numbers translate into an expected prorationing for junior water right holders at 95%. In other words, good news.

The actual amount of water can change based on the weather in the spring and summer. Last year the amount went down over the course of the summer but then at the end of the season, water was unexpectedly available. Water is variable that must be monitored over the course of the season.

The junior water right number is important because much (but not all) of Kittitas County’s agricultural land falls under the junior water right designation.

Snowpack/water supply is just one critical weather-related factor that influences the success of an agricultural season.

Agriculture is an important component of this county’s economy. Timothy hay is the county’s primary crop. In addition to the weather factors, the crop is exported so there are a host of transportation, port, shipping and international trade issues to track. The number of variables adds to the uncertainty, but it makes it a fascinating subject to track.

The baseline, though, is water. A lack of water cannot be overcome by even the savviest international marketing efforts.

This fall/winter has highlighted the fact that the weather in Ellensburg does not matter. Some people, those who do not enjoy shoveling and don’t have to drive Snoqualmie Pass on a regular basis, would say a winter such as this with heavy snow in the mountains and Upper County and a scant amount in the valley is the best winter possible.

Not to be alarmist, but the county will need every potentially positive economic factor to go its way this year to offset what may be a difficult spring/summer for small towns dependent on festivals, tourist traffic and large gatherings.

A good year for agriculture always is important but may be more so if other tourist-oriented segments of the economy take a hit.

Hopefully the coronavirus plays out over the next weeks, rather than months, but it is wise to plan for life and economic disruptions.


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