MADRAS, OR -- Water levels are low and getting lower, and local irrigation officials are concerned there won't be enough to satisfy customers' needs through irrigation season.
Mike Britton is Chair of the Deschutes Basin Board of Control and General Manager of the North Unit Irrigation District in Madras. He tells KBND News Wickiup Reservoir started the season full - maximum capacity is 200,000 acre feet. But, "There is a reduced natural flow component to the river this year, just simply because the previous winter didn't really result in much snowpack- or much snowpack that carried over. And, although North Unit started with a full reservoir up at Wickiup, I think the prior two or three years of dry winters affected this year's natural flows." He adds, "We had the historical winter of 2016 with all the snow, and I think a lot of people thought that was going to cure the multiple year dry spell, but we're seeing that it's really not - at this point - quite enough."
According to Britton, the lowest Wickiup has dropped in recent years is 13,000 acre feet and the lowest it is allowed is 8,000 acre feet, "At that point, we're done for the season," he says, "I mean, there's no other water to work with." Wickiup Reservoir currently measures at about 47,000 acre feet, and that needs to last through October. "For our patrons, they're concerned about the ability to make it through the balance of the irrigation season, then that could affect their operations. We're keeping our fingers crossed that that won't happen, but we're watching it day by day and measuring every drop of water that comes on to the land."