If you’ve been up to the mountains lately, you’ve likely rejoiced in the fact that the snow is much better this year than last. To put some numbers to it, according to the NRCS report that just came out, the basin snowpack was at 95% of normal as of January 1st. Compare this to a scant 41% of normal at this time last year.
Precipitation in December was 74% of average and 86% of average measuring from October 1st.
While this may sound like good news now, the things to consider are reservoir levels and continued snow and rain fall from January to March. Water supply challenges are the result in part of how much water can be stored in Wickiup, Crane Prairie, Crescent, and Prineville Reservoirs to meet water demands in the summer.
As of January 14, 2021, the Deschutes and Crooked River Basin’s snow water equivalent is 87% of the median for this date.
Kyle Gorman, Central Oregon Regional Manager for the Oregon Water Resources Department puts this into perspective. “Four out of the five reservoirs in the basin are at ½ or lower than average levels for this date as well. It will take a spectacular snowy month or two to get us above average and high enough above average to dig our way out of the low reservoir and stream flow conditions we are seeing as a result of years of recent drought.”
With continued water supply issues, it’s imperative that we carefully manage the water we divert from Central Oregon’s rivers and streams. Leaking canals and inefficient irrigation practices provide a huge opportunity for water savings to help fish, farms and cities thrive.
“The DRC has been working to restore streamflow and improve water quality in the Deschutes Basin for over 25 years.” says DRC Executive Director, Kate Fitzpatrick.
“We will be building on a long-term foundation of successful conservation projects leveraged through our basin partners. We have programs in place that will help restore function to a river that has long been degraded by extreme flow fluctuations while ensuring more reliable water for basin farmers.”