Rapid snow melt, dry spring indicate critically low summer water supply

Snow present at only five monitoring sites

PORTLAND — The June Water Supply Outlook Report from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service predicts water shortages across much of Oregon this summer. Unseasonably warm temperatures in May, combined with a drier than normal snow season, will mean significantly low streams in many areas.

“Snow melt has been rapid and early this year,” said Scott Oviatt, snow survey supervisory hydrologist. “Of 81 real-time snow monitoring stations, only five still have snow as of June 1.”

Most snow monitoring sites melted out one to two weeks earlier than normal. Even higher elevation sites couldn’t escape the unusual heat. Snow at several of these locations melted out at rates that were up to twice as fast as usual for snow melt in May.

Banking on storage

Reservoirs remain a bright spot in the water supply picture. Many of Oregon’s major irrigation reservoirs are storing near average amounts of water as of the end of May, but several have begun to dip below average.

The Umatilla, Walla Walla, and Willow basins are storing the most water with capacity at 95-111 percent of average. Elsewhere, most of the state’s major reservoirs range from 70-110 percent of average.

Drought intensifies

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is calling for a warmer and drier than normal summer and the Drought Monitor recently added a severe drought designation for parts of central and southeastern Oregon.

Gov. Kate Brown has officially declared a drought state of emergency in Grant, Harney, Lake, and Klamath counties. Water users are advised to plan for water shortages in these regions, especially those without access to reservoir storage.

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