Despite Recent Storms, Limited Water Supplies Expected in Oregon
NRCS February Water Supply Outlook Just Released
Release No. 2014.2.005
Melissa Webb, NRCS Hydrologist
Julie Koeberle, NRCS Hydrologist
Portland, Ore. (Feb. 13, 2014) –The first part of February brought a return to winter conditions for most of Oregon, bringing new snow to both the mountains and the valleys. However, despite this wintery weather, the statewide snowpack still remains well below normal.
Snowpack levels range from 30-50 percent of normal across the southern and western parts of Oregon to 60-80 percent of normal in the northeastern region of the state. In order to make up for the snowpack deficit that developed as a result of the extremely dry last four months, Oregon’s mountains would need record-breaking snowfall for the remaining two months.
“There is time left in the season for the snowpack to improve slightly, but catching up to normal snow levels before snowmelt season begins is highly unlikely. Luckily, the first part of this month has been wet for most of the state and that will offer some relief. For now, water users in southern and southeastern Oregon should prepare for limited water this summer,” said Julie Koeberle, NRCS Hydrologist.
The mountain regions across the southern half of Oregon are experiencing the lowest snowpack conditions in the state this this winter. As a result, streamflow forecasts for the coming summer months are predicting less than half of normal flows as of February 1 for many streams and rivers across southern Oregon. In addition, water storage in southern Oregon reservoirs is well below average this winter. Due to likelihood of water shortages this summer season, four counties in southern Oregon have already requested drought declaration assistance.
Based on the dry fall months and low snowpack conditions, most of Oregon’s streams and rivers are expected to have below normal streamflows this summer. April through September streamflow forecasts are predicted to be less than half of average across much of the southern and eastern basins of Oregon. Summer flows are forecast to be slightly higher in the Willamette, Umatilla and Grande Ronde basins, where April through September streamflow forecasts range from about 70 to 90 percent of average, as of February 1.
The latest information on Oregon’s streamflow forecasts can be found in the Water Supply Outlook Reportrecently released by the USDA Natural Resources and Conservation Service (NRCS).
The NRCS Snow Survey is the federal program that measures snow and provides streamflow forecasts and snowpack data for communities, water managers and recreationalists across the West. In Oregon, snow measurements are collected from 81 SNOTEL sites, 42 manually measured snow courses, and 26 aerial markers. Water and snowpack information for all SNOTEL sites nationwide are available on the Snow Survey Web site in a variety of formats. The reports are updated every hour and are available on the NRCS Web site at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/or/snow/.
NRCS publishes six monthly Oregon Water Supply Outlook Reports between Jan. 1 and June 1 every year. Look for next month’s report from NRCS for the latest information on water supply forecasts in Oregon.
A digital copy of the February, NRCS Oregon Basin Outlook Report, can be found at the following link:
To regularly receive this information as an email announcement, contact Julie Koeberle at firstname.lastname@example.org or 503-414-3272 to subscribe.
Image: Oregon SNOTEL current Snow Water Equivalent, percent of normal as of Feb. 13, 2014; The snow water equivalent represents the depth of water in the snowpack expressed in inches if the snowpack were melted.
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