Arctic weather hasn't improved Central Oregon snowpack

February 24, 2022
Arctic weather hasn't improved Central Oregon snowpack

Snowpack drops to 85% of normal in Central Oregon


The blast of cold, arctic weather to hit Central Oregon this week has been a welcome sight for skiers, sledders, and others concerned about the lack of winter this year. For reservoir watchers, the weather is still short of what’s needed.

Snowpack in the Upper Deschutes and Crooked River Basin fell to 85% of normal as of Thursday, according to data compiled by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Year-to-date precipitation was 86% of normal.

“The series of snow events had no impact on the Upper Deschutes and Crooked River basin where the snowpack remained unchanged with respect to the 1991-2020 median,” Scott Oviatt, snow survey supervisory hydrologist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, said in an email.The low snowpack makes filling Wickiup Reservoir next year unlikely. Filling the reservoir requires a strong snowpack in the previous year as snow melts into the aquifer before it can recharge the reservoir.

This year, Wickiup, which supplies water for North Unit Irrigation District, will finish winter at its lowest level in history. The reservoir is currently 47% full with five weeks left before the start of the irrigation season.

As of Thursday, the reservoir was 6,421 acre-feet below last year’s level on the same date and live flows were also “lagging significantly,” said Josh Bailey, general manager of North Unit.

“We are expecting a wetter than normal spring that we hope will offset the lack of moisture,” said Bailey.

Oviatt said along with the lack of snowpack, low stream flows carrying over from last fall are also a problem.

“The water supply and drought outlook for this year is not good considering the lack of adequate precipitation and snow to assist in mitigating the ongoing multiyear drought,” he said.

Snow levels north of Madras are faring a bit better. In the Hood, Sandy and Lower Deschutes region, snowpack is 131% of normal and year-to-date precipitation is 100% of normal.

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