Warm spring dumps early peak flow into most Oregon waterways, report says

Jun 08, 2016

The Oregonian

Warm spring dumps early peak flow into most Oregon waterways, report says Early-season snowmelt has caused most of Oregon's rivers and streams to reach their peak flow earlier than normal this year, according to a report released Tuesday.

Officials predict "below normal to well below normal" streamflow through September, the report says. And some areas — especially those that don't have reservoir access — could see water shortages or tight water supplies.

The Willamette River, measured at Salem, is forecast to flow at 85 percent of its average through September, while the Deschutes River is forecast at 95 percent. But the Silvies River near Burns is expected to flow at only 36 percent of its average, for example, and the Grande Ronde River is forecast at 55 percent.

Some forecasts assume typical weather through September, according to the report, which was released by the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts above-average summer temperatures, the report says. Much of the state, including the Portland area, is abnormally dry, according to the most recent data available from the U.S. Drought Monitor.

A 20,000-acre wildfire is burning in Malheur County, marking the unofficial start of Oregon's wildfire season.

The report says many large irrigation reservoirs throughout the state have near-average water levels. But a hot summer — and thus a high demand for reservoir water — could lead to tight supplies at the end of the season.

The report says reservoir supplies are more ample than at this point in 2015 and that precipitation has "significantly improved reservoir storage since the end of last summer," when drought forced many Oregon cities to implement water use cutbacks.

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