Low snowfall levels save cities money, but could put water supply at risk

Low snowfall levels save cities money, but could put water supply at risk »Play Video

YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. -- No winter wonderland around the Yakima Valley is not such a wonderful thing. The snowfall is abnormally low. It's saving cities like Yakima money, but it could be a problem for the water supply in the spring.

The Yakima River is flowing and the streets around Yakima County are clear. It looked different this time last year. The change is good for Yakima's city budget.

"It's less wear and tear on the streets, less money we're spending on overtime and materials and that type of thing," Yakima's streets and traffic manager Joe Rosenlund said. "Less money on equipment and fuel and all those. So, there's money savings for the city is the biggest thing."
"And saving taxpayer dollars?" KIMA asked.
"Right," he responded.

In fact, Yakima will end 2013 without blowing its snow removal budget for the first time in five years. Only half of it has been used. But, there's a possible downside if you take a look at the mountains. There has been snow, but not as much as usual. A low snowpack could hurt the local water supply.    

"It affects the river," Bureau of Reclamation supervisor Chuck Garner said. "It affects farmers. Right now, it's affecting skiers."

The normal snowpack for this time of year is about 100 inches. Crews estimate we're at about half that throughout the Yakima basin right now.

"I'm not too concerned about that right now because, you know January, February, March, we usually get a fair amount of snow," Garner said.
"It's too soon to tell?" KIMA asked.
"It's too soon to tell," he responded.

Farmers across the Valley also say it's too early to know if their crops will suffer. However, business that sell recreational winter equipment like snowmobiles are hurting. A lot of them pay a monthly fee to keep the gear on their floor. The longer it sits, the more they pay. The consequences could get a lot worse if we don't see much snow by the end of February.

Crews with the Bureau of Reclamation crews are measuring the snowpack levels this week. They're in Cle Elum, White Pass, and Snoqualmie Pass to see exactly how we stand.