BEND, OR -- Despite a massive amount of snow in the mountains this winter, Central Oregon could struggle again with near-drought conditions, later this year. "Big picture: we can say that conditions are much better than last year," says Ken Stahr, with the Oregon Water Resources Department, "But, we can’t ignore the trend that we’re seeing this time of year: elevated temperatures, which, in turn, elevates water supply demand."
Stahr tells KBND News, "We can say, today, ‘hey, not bad.’ Statistically speaking, water supply on the west side of the Deschutes Basin is pretty decent. And, it’s not too darn bad coming out of the Ochocos, as well." But, he's worried about the long-term forecast. Stahr, who also chairs the state's Water Supply Availability Committee, says while Deschutes County is doing okay, Crook County is a different story. "They’re not fairing as well in that part of Central Oregon, but we can say it’s better than last year. Up until just a few weeks ago, even the Crooked [River] was doing well. But, as we speak, we have a couple of streams that are going dry, that are flowing into Ochoco Reservoir." He adds, "We’ve not seen any appreciable precip for the past about 45 days. And, as you know, we’ve had a lot of high temperatures. So, whatever snow was in the Ochocos is long gone and now we’re just down to the base flow, if you will; and it’s dropping." He expects the trend to continue, which could signal trouble for High Desert irrigators who rely on reservoirs and stream flows for water.
Central Oregon saw record-setting snowfall last winter, which caused some to speculate we would see a full reversal of the 2015 drought
, when the Governor declared emergencies for three-quarters of the state. Stahr says one good winter isn't enough. "Drought is a slow moving disaster. Remember 2015? It took us three years to get there. So, my story here is that it doesn’t take a year to get back to some sense of ‘we’re going to be ok’.” Referring to this winter's snow, he says, "It’s not the end of a drought. I’d like to call it relief from a drought."
to access the latest Water Conditions Report.