Oregon Summer Water Supplies Still Forecasted to be Low
NRCS March Water Supply Outlook is available online
Release No. 2014.3.006
Melissa Webb, NRCS Hydrologist
Julie Koeberle, NRCS Hydrologist
Portland, Ore. (Mar. 14, 2014) – March continued Oregon’s wet spell, bringing more than 175 percent of average precipitation across Oregon. Together, February and March have boosted the water year total precipitation in Oregon by 20 to 35 percent. Unfortunately, these recent wet weeks did not offset a four-month moisture deficit during the critical snow accumulation period. The precipitation in Oregon since Oct. 1 continues to remain below normal (65 to 98 percent). Except for the northeast corner of the state, Oregon basins have a snowpack less than 75 percent of normal. Statewide, the snowpack that is near 5000 feet in elevation and below has begun melting since the first of March; the snowpack at elevations above this band have continued to accumulate snow.
With less than a month left in the typical snow accumulation season, the opportunity for the record breaking snowfall needed to pull the snowpack up to normal levels is quickly diminishing. Southern Oregon continues to be the hardest hit region in the state. Due to drought conditions, the Governor has declared a state of emergency for the following counties: Klamath, Lake, Harney and Malheur. The latest drought conditions can be found on the drought monitor website: http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/.
“The paradox as of late is that some rivers have recently flooded due to the really wet month of February and first part of March, and those are some of the same areas that are preparing for a drought this summer. Once the limited snow melts and the rains subside, the concern for dry conditions will be imminent,” said Julie Koeberle, NRCS Hydrologist. “For now, water users in southern and southeastern Oregon should prepare for limited water this summer.”
Based on the dry fall and low snowpack conditions, summer streamflow forecasts remain below normal. However, since the Febrary 1 forecasts, conditions have shown a 5 to 30 percent of normal improvement. As of March 1, streamflow forecasts generally increased from south to north across Oregon. The northern river basins, with the most snowfall, continue to show the best April through September streamflow forecasts, at 75 to 95 percent of average. April through September streamflows are predicted to be 30 to 60 percent of average across much of the southern and eastern basins of Oregon.
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 March, 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 Mar 14, 2014; The snow water equivalent represents the depth of water in the snowpack expressed in inches if the snowpack were melted.
For more information about NRCS and other programs please visit the NRCS website at www.or.nrcs.usda.gov
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