SALEM, Ore. — Governor Kate Brown on Wednesday issued an official drought declaration for Klamath County — Oregon's first for the year, though it's unlikely to be the last.
An official drought declaration is an administrative step via executive order that allows water users to access state and federal resources for relief when water supplies are scarce. Klamath County was under a drought declaration last year as well, one of many over the past decade. The area saw a brief respite during 2019.
"The Klamath Basin faces one of the most difficult water years in recent memory. Moving forward, we must look for long-term solutions to the underlying issue in Klamath and many other Oregon counties: there is too little water to go around, and as the climate changes we are experiencing hotter, drier summers," said Governor Brown. "After last year's wildfire season, we are closely monitoring drought conditions in the Klamath Basin and statewide."
According to Brown's office, the snow-water equivalent in Klamath County was 77 percent of a "normal" water year as of March 8 — and forecasted conditions are not expected to see any improvement. Officials said that drought, severe weather conditions, and the coming fire season pose major threats to the Klamath economy, agriculture and livestock, natural resources, and recreation.
"I am committed to doing everything possible to make state resources available to provide immediate relief and assistance to water users throughout Klamath County," Governor Brown continued. "As we brace for another record-breaking drought year, collaborating with our federal partners will also be critical as we work towards locally supported, long-term solutions. I am confident that the collaborative spirit and ingenuity of the people in Klamath will provide lasting solutions."
With the drought declaration in place, the state Water Resources Department can expedite review processes and reduce fee schedules. Local water users will also become eligible for assistance.
Klamath County made a request for the drought declaration on March 9, citing low snowpack, low precipitation, low streamflows, and warmer temperatures.