On the other, there is evaporation from the ground and transpiration of water vapor from plants.
(Note: Transpiration is the process by which moisture is carried through plants from roots to small pores on the underside of leaves, where it changes to vapor and is released to the atmosphere. Transpiration is essentially evaporation of water from plant leaves.)
Which wins here in the Northwest and elsewhere: evaporation or precipitation?
The sum of evaporation and transpiration is given the fancy name of evapotranspiration. This is the kind of term that will impress your friends.
It is interesting to look at the ratio of evapotranspiration to precipitation. Where it is greater than one there is more evaporation than precipitation. Take a look at the climatological ratio of these two quantities for the U.S. over the year:
In contrast, there is eastern Washington, where some portions have ratios greater than one. They evaporate more water than falls as rain. There are variety of ways this can occur naturally (e.g., water coming in from rivers, groundwater rising to the surface), but certainly in this case the extensive irrigation using Columbia River water must be important.
Most of the eastern U.S. and Midwest have ratios below 1 (they receive more rain than evapotranspiration), with large sections of the southwest U.S. having ratios above one (no surprise there).
As temperatures increase, the amount of evaporation (evapotranspiration) increases on both sides of the Cascades. Below is the evapotranspiration at Corvallis, in western Oregon, and George, in eastern WA (in inches per day). You go from essentially zero in mid-winter to about .25 inches recently. With very little precipitation falling, there is way more evaporation than precipitation and the ground is drying up. It shows in my garden.