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Notes from the Field: 2018 Snowpack So Far – Yikes!

January 8th, 2018

By Kyle Gorman, South Central Region Manager for Oregon Water Resources Department

As of today, the snowpack at the basin’s snow telemetered sites are reading 37% of average water content. We started off November with a spectacular snow pack and December has left us way behind. Although we can recover in January and February, it will take a lot of storms and moisture just to get back to normal or average. “It isn’t over til its over” but we really need some snow in the mountains right now….lots and lots of snow. The forecast for the mountains is only chance of snow for the next 7 days; that is not enough. Three Creeks SNOTEL is only 20% of average for water equivalent and this is the site that gauges snow pack for Whychus Creek. We need 6.3 inches of water equivalent to get the snowpack to average. The precipitation for the water year is 81 percent of average which is better but not where we want to be.

We have snow! Is the drought over?

January 23rd, 2016
Photo: Kim Brannock

Photo: Kim Brannock

The current water report from Oregon Water Resources Department Region Manager, Kyle Gorman

The Water Year so far has been a remarkable improvement from last year.  Although, the reservoirs are still showing some lingering effects of the incredibly low snowpack and very warm, dry summer we had, there is hope and anticipation for improvement this year. The snowpack (snow water equivalent in the snow) is at 117%. Last year at this time it was an abysmal 33% of average and on its way to being the worst snowpack on record since automated records began in the early 1980’s. Most notably as a bonus this year is that we have a lot of lower elevation snow that we haven’t had since 2012. This is a large source of recharge and run-off for the basin streams that is not captured in the SNOTEL sites because of their high elevation. The forecast is calling for cool, wet weather for the coming week, which is more good news for water supply.

Better precipitation this year has taken the edge off the drought but we are not out of the woods yet. The winter water storage season started with reservoirs at substantially lower levels than they have been in years and the need for conservation is still very real and is always present.

We are well underway with a basin study that will address water supply issues, climate change, opportunities for irrigation efficiencies, and develop a range of options to meet future water needs. The study will help meet the needs of streams, farms and cities, particularly in times of shortages much like we experienced last year.

Kyle Gorman

Kyle Gorman is the South Central Region Manager at the Oregon Water Resources Department in Bend, Oregon. The OWRD’s mission is to serve the public by practicing and promoting responsible water management.