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Drought Conditions Now Severe & Extreme

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The latest report from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows that drought conditions have worsened over our region, even climbing to ‘extreme’ in some areas. While 3 to 5 inches of rain was reported along the Oregon Coast only an inch or two of precipitation was widespread over Western Oregon, and the week ended up drier than average. Precipitation amounts for most of the West were half an inch or less and in fact, much of the Southwest received no precipitation. Mountain snowpack was below normal, except for the Washington Ranges and Northern and Central Rockies, with continued warmer-than-normal temperatures accelerating the melting of the meager snowpack in the California Sierras.

Severe drought conditions expanded to the Southern and Central Oregon Coast and Northern California Coast, while extreme drought conditions spread into Siskiyou County and Southern Klamath County where precipitation deficits and low streamflows were most significant.

In California, the city of San Diego was proposing a water supply “level 1” status, and a small reservoir/water district in Riverside County was on the 30-90 day “watch” list for depleted supplies. The city of Montague risks running out of drinking water by the end of summer and has requested that all outside watering be curtailed until further notice; this is the first time in over 80 years of water deliveries from the Montague Water Conservation District (MWCD) that this situation has occurred. Growers in the Shasta Valley with the primary irrigation district (MWCD) were expected to have only enough irrigation water to what would equate to a single irrigation on about half of their acreage.

Many growers in the Big Springs area have already started pumping water to irrigate fields. Within 24 hours of when one grower started irrigating, two nearby domestic wells went dry. The frustration caused by the drought can be seen in a report by an observer in Siskiyou County: “Our snowpack is pathetic, rainfall is way below normal, (low) streamflows are running at 2-3 months ahead of normal depending on the area, well levels have dropped severely and many wells are dry in spring or have levels typical of late fall. Surface water irrigation supplies are non-existent to extremely limited in many areas, and the situation is only getting worse daily (especially after 3 consecutive years of drought).” With the expansion of moderate drought conditions across Southeast California and Southwest Arizona, this week marks the first time in the 15-year history of the U.S. Drought Monitor that 100% of California was in moderate to Exceptional drought.