According to the latest United States Drought Monitor map, Central Oregon is in severe, extreme or exceptional drought.
“Most of Central Oregon is under exceptional drought right now. The flows in the Deschutes River are lower than we’ve ever seen them before,” said Jeremy Griffin, Deschutes Basin Watermaster. “Wickiup Reservoir is expected to go empty within the next 3 weeks. It’s currently at 8 percent. When it goes empty, we will see a drop in the Deschutes River as it runs through Bend.”
Local water companies are urging conservation like never before.
But beyond reducing our water use, what has to happen to stop and possibly reverse this trend for the future?
“You know, people are accustomed to a dry year so that’s not unprecedented. But when you have those hitting again and again, it’s more difficult over the longer term for any natural system or any agricultural system or society to recover from that,” said Erica Fleischer, director of the Oregon Climate Change Institute.
It took several years of below-average precipitation for the drought to develop.
And it will take several years of above-average precipitation to break the drought.
There will be no overnight miracle.
“The Deschutes Basin is unique and the geology we have here. It’s not a runoff type basin where we get a storm and the river comes up,” Griffin said. “We have a lot of young volcanics around here so when the precipitation falls and melts, it enters into our vast aquifer and comes out in springs. It’s attenuated over several years. It takes several years to become dry in this basin and it takes several wet years to become wet in this basin.”