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News Release

Record low snow continues throughout Oregon, below normal streamflow forecasted this summer

NRCS April Water Supply Outlook is available online


Release No. 2015.04.022


Scott Oviatt, Snow Survey Supervisor

Julie Koeberle, NRCS Hydrologist

PORTLAND, Ore.  (April 7, 2015) -- The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in Oregon announces the release of its April water supply outlook report, which shows a continued trend this year for record-low snowpack throughout the state.

As of April 1, 76 percent of Oregon’s long-term snow monitoring sites were at the lowest snowpack levels on record. In a typical year, most sites would be near their peak snowpack at this point in the season. This year, more than half of all snowpack measurements across the state recorded bare ground on April 1. Snowpacks across Oregon peaked at 40 to 90 percent below typical peak levels this winter, which will lead to reduced water supplies in the coming summer.

April 7 Snowpack Map“We have reached a point in the winter season where there is no doubt that the majority of streams and rivers in Oregon will have below normal flows this year, due to lack of snow accumulation,” said Scott Oviatt, NRCS snow survey supervisor. “Overall precipitation since Oct. 1 has been near normal statewide. However, warm temperatures have resulted in the majority of precipitation falling as rain instead of snow. Thus, snowmelt runoff will not be available to help sustain mid and late summer streamflows.”

During March, streamflow was below normal for most of Oregon’s rivers, which was a significant change from February when most streams were flowing near and above normal.

“The unusually warm months of January and February, combined with rain in the mountains, caused rivers to receive a surge of rain and snowmelt during February,” Oviatt said. “Most of Oregon’s low elevation snow was lost during this period, and those areas remain snow-free.”

The lack of snow on April 1 means that streamflows will be well below normal levels this summer. Given that most of Oregon’s snowpack has melted or begun to melt earlier than normal, many snowmelt-driven streamflow peaks occurred during February and March. Normally these streamflow peaks occur in May and June.

Water users depending on streamflow for irrigation will likely experience shortages, especially if the rest of spring brings warm and dry weather. NRCS encourages farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to consider conservation practices to improve the productivity of their land during drought. NRCS Oregon recently launched a new drought webpage with information and resources for private landowners. Landowners are also encouraged to contact a local USDA Service Center for more information about conservation practices and options for NRCS assistance.

The latest information on Oregon’s streamflow forecasts can be found in the April Water Supply Outlook Report.

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 website in a variety of formats. The reports are updated every hour and are available at:

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.

To regularly receive this information as an email announcement, contact Julie Koeberle at  or 503-414-3272 to subscribe.

Image: Oregon SNOTEL current Snow Water Equivalent, percent of normal as of Apr 7, 2015; The snow water equivalent represents the depth of water in the snowpack expressed in inches if the snowpack were melted.




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