The third and final snow survey of the year finds the snowpack melting at an alarming rate when it should be peaking.
Snowpack was near average at the beginning of the year, but there hasn’t been much new snowfall since then.
The end of March is typically the peak of the snowpack in Central Oregon, but not this year.
As of now, the upper Deschutes and Crooked River basins have about 54% of normal snowpack.
That doesn’t bode well for water in Central Oregon this summer.
“Last fall we went in with very dry soil moisture conditions and very low stream flows. So, combining that with the insufficient snowpack, we aren’t going to add to the stream flows and refill many of the reservoirs which are relied upon for irrigation and in-stream flows,” said Scott Oviatt, Oregon Snow Survey Supervisor for the Natural Resource Conservation Service.
A team of NRCS scientists surveyed the snowpack at three sites Wednesday along Century Drive.
Dutchman Flat was about 60% of average.
The Tangent Snow survey site near Wanoga Sno Park had far less snow.
“So far the picture is not great,” said Andy Neary, NRCS Ecologist. “Our snow depth is about 27% of our 30 year average and our snow water content is about 28% of average for this particular site.”
The Hungry Flat snow survey site near Virginia Meissner Sno Park is dry.
“We are pretty much guaranteed to encounter water shortages both surface and groundwater,” Oviatt said. “That will impact not only irrigation water and farmers, but also potentially municipalities in some regions and some private landowners who have wells. Those concerns are there.”
Residents of Bend, Redmond, Sisters, Prineville and Madras whose water is supplied by city water systems should not have shortages this year, but everyone is encouraged to conserve water if the now 4 year long drought persists into the future.
No matter how much rain falls this spring, Central Oregon will be in a drought for at least another year.