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WSU Educators Outline Implications of Drought

PULLMAN, Wash. — Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire declared a drought emergency in the state today. What does that mean for Washington farmers, foresters, home owners and gardeners? The following experts from the WSU College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resources and WSU Extension can answer your questions about the implications of the drought and ways to mitigate its affects.

What constitutes an “official” drought and what are the benefits of a formal declaration of drought? Rich Koenig, a soils specialist at WSU’s Pullman campus, who has served on the Washington State Executive Water Emergency Committee — also referred to as the Drought Response Team – has facts, figures and history about today’s declaration. Koenig can be contacted at 509.335.2726,

When water is scarce, the balancing of traditional water demands of irrigated agriculture with more recent demands of endangered species protection in the West becomes even more difficult. Economics Professor Ray Huffaker can answer questions about the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Water 2025 program, water marketing and water law. He is available at 509.335.1890,

Thomas I. Wahl, director of WSU’s IMPACT Center and professor in the School of Economic Sciences, can speak to the implications of drought for agricultural exports. “From an exporting perspective, if there is a significant drought and production decreases resulting in higher prices, Pacific Northwest agriculture will be less competitive in the international marketplace,” he said. “If we cannot meet the needs of international consumers in the short term, they may find alternative sources, resulting in a loss of markets in the longer run.” Wahl is available at 509.335.6653,

On the Farm, Orchard, Vineyard, Ranch
Extension soil scientist Bob Stevens, who works at WSU’s Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center at Prosser, has 20 years of experience in soil water management. He can address questions about irrigation water treatment, soils and soil water management. He can be reached at 509.786.9231,

What will the drought mean for this year’s wheat crop? Extension Agronomist John W. Burns can answer questions about the impact on wheat and other dry cereal crops. He is available at 509.335.5831,

Tipton (Tip) Hudson, extension educator at Kittitas County Extension in Ellensburg, can answer questions about the impact of drought on livestock and rangeland. He can be reached at 509.962.7507,

Some growers may have to choose which crop they will water, if drought conditions worsen, according to John (Jack) Watson Jr., Benton County Extension educator in Prosser. Especially those in junior water rights districts may find themselves having to choose between “watering their Red Delicious or the merlot,” said Watson, who specializes in tree fruit and grape production. “If you only have a little bit of water, which crop are you going to make your top priority?” He can be reached at 509.786.5609,

Hybrid poplars are one of the state’s fastest growing ag industries. Jon D. Johnson, a tree physiology specialist based in Puyallup, can answer questions about the impact of drought on this important crop. He is available at 253.445.4522,

Forest Health
Peter Griessman, forestry extension educator at Colville, can answer questions about how continuing drought could affect forests throughout the state, especially in eastern Washington. He can be contacted at 509.684.2588,

At Home
Turf agronomist Gwen Stahnke, a WSU Extension educator at Puyallup, has studied lawn conditions and taught turf management in Washington for nearly 15 years. She can answer questions about everything from thatching to fertilizing and how and when to water during a drought. She can be contacted at 253.445.4513,

There are a variety of ways to ensure your landscaping survives in drought conditions as well as ways to landscape for droughts of the future, also known as xeriscaping, according to Tonie Fitzgerald. She is a WSU Extension educator in Spokane County and can be reached at 509.477.2164,

Linda Chalker-Scott, extension horticulturist at WSU Puyallup Research and Extension Center, can answer questions about mulch types and supplies, landscape plants for drought tolerance, watering techniques and garden design for western Washington. She can be reached at 253.445.4500,

Average home water use varies from 50 to 100 gallons per person per day, according to extension educator Robert Simmons, director and water resources agent at the Mason County Extension Office. The greatest water use is in the bathroom; laundry use ranks second. Simmons has numerous suggestions for conserving water during drought periods. He can be reached at 360.427.9670,

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