MEDFORD, Ore. — Multiple southern Oregon counties are under a drought emergency declaration from Governor Kate Brown as of May 8, and more are likely to join them.
So far, Klamath, Jackson, and Curry counties have received the drought declaration from Governor Brown, but Coos County has requested the same. In California, Siskiyou County has also requested a drought emergency declaration from Governor Gavin Newsom.
(Photo courtesy US Geological Survey)
"Drought conditions arrived early and have persisted, including reduced snowpack, precipitation, and subsequent minimal streamflow," Brown's declaration for Jackson County reads. "The long-term forecast for the region continues for warmer than normal temperatures and lower than normal precipitation. These conditions have had significant economic impact on agriculture, timber, and recreational industries in Jackson County."
While Jackson and Curry counties received their declarations over the past several weeks, Klamath County reached it at the end of February. The scramble for irrigation water from Upper Klamath Lake has already inflamed near-yearly conflicts between irrigators, tribes, and the federal government.
"Even under the best of circumstances, water availability is severely limited. If there is not a dramatic reduction in demand, the Project will likely run out of water altogether within the next two months, if not sooner," the Klamath Water Users Association, which represents irrigators in the Klamath Basin, posted on Facebook Thursday. "There are discussions occurring among tribes, agencies and KWUA about how to deal with these issues. Right now, we do not know what decisions will come out of this."
The U.S. Drought Monitor finds extreme drought conditions in western Siskiyou County, southwest Jackson County, most of Josephine County, and northeastern Curry County.
"Much of the rest of these counties, along with Klamath Counties, are in D2 — severe drought," the National Weather Service says. "As of today, the SWE — snow water equivalent — for the Rogue and Umpqua basins is around 45 percent of normal. The SWE for the Klamath Basin is 34 percent of normal. Much of the precipitation came early in the water year. With above normal temperatures being common through the winter, the snow pack has suffered."
Drought emergency declarations allow local agencies and residents access to resources to help offset the economic impact of the dry conditions — including the possibility of federal disaster loans for farmers and other people that rely on an adequate water supply for their livelihoods.