Our Voice: Mountain snow showers bring us food and flowers

It's hard to believe a month ago we were in fear of a long, dry summer.

Snow had been elusive and the forecast for a water supply was looking grim.

And then Mother Nature did what she does and dumped snow all over the place -- including down here in the lowlands where we live.

Just like that, a drought was averted.

By mid-February, we already were at 95 percent of the average snowfall needed to feed the water supply in the lower Yakima Valley.

And it hasn't stopped -- piling snow up in the mountains and showering us with freezing rain and sleet. The mountain passes have been closed intermittently for weeks because of hazardous conditions and avalanche control. Ski resorts are happy with the late-season boost.

The peak snow pack will be around April 1, and with the way things have been going, we should exceed usual levels.

Mountain snow is key to surviving the summer in our desert climate. Cities, crops and fish all depend on a water supply coming down from the mountains to sustain them.

We are lucky here in that most years the snow may come late, but we get enough to avoid a semblance of a drought.

We've never been to the crisis levels of California, but we have had years when local irrigation districts rationed water to city customers. What we've faced really pales by comparison, and we should remember just how lucky we are to be surrounded by big rivers and not-too-distant mountain ranges.

But that's not to say we shouldn't be mindful of our water use, even in years of plenty. Farmers, the great stewards of the earth, have become water conservation experts as well -- and we all need to follow suit.

Look at your landscaping, and think about the time of day you're watering your lawn. We could all probably tighten things up a bit.

Just because we're going to have plenty of water this summer doesn't mean we should abuse the bounty.

Xeriscaping, which reduces or can even eliminate the need for irrigation, is personal taste, and it's certainly an option to be considered. It's not just sagebrush and gravel. It can be quite pretty and is certainly suited for this desert climate.

So while it may be a hot summer, it won't be a dry one. Remember to appreciate the snow again in the summertime when it's really doing its work for us.