No major hydro power impact seen yet from Northwest drought

The Northwest Power and Conservation Council said recently it does not anticipate hydroelectric shortages this year despite drier-than-normal conditions, including low snowpack and warm temperatures.

“While nearly all of the West is experiencing abnormally dry conditions, with drought emergencies declared in California and three of the four Northwest states, the water supply in most of the Columbia River Basin is close enough to normal that hydropower shortages are unlikely,” according to an April 27 analysis by the Council.

The Northwest has faced something of a drought “double-whammy” this year. Even when precipitation was normal this water year (October through April) the snow levels were low, according to the document.

In Idaho, for example, half of the basins in the state report less than 50% of median snowpack. In Montana, warm temperatures and rain have depleted snowpack to 68% of average and ski areas closed early. In Oregon, 76% of snow sites in the state have their lowest snowpack ever.

In Washington, statewide snowpack has declined to 22% of normal, worse than in the drought of 2005.

Members of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council are appointed by the governors of Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington. The council’s mission is to ensure, with public participation, an affordable and reliable energy system while enhancing fish and wildlife in the Columbia River Basin.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at