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Talent Irrigation District shutting down to conserve water amid worsening drought

With a few days of rain in the area, officials at the Talent Irrigation District say they will be temporarily shutting down to preserve the limited water supply.

Posted: Jun 14, 2021 4:15 PM
Updated: Jun 14, 2021 5:16 PM

TALENT, Ore. — With the level of drought across southern Oregon this year, Talent Irrigation District president Mike Winters says that they're in "disaster mode."

The District announced on Monday that it will shut down the entire irrigation system for at least two weeks beginning Tuesday. After a few days of decent rain, the hope is to preserve the extremely limited water supply. The shutdown could be extended if more rain comes through.

Winters advises people who are using domestic water wells outside of city limits to prepare for their wells to go dry this year. He says the District is taking water management steps now due to drought that it normally doesn't take until August or September.

Winters says the District's irrigation canal has some water in it, but he expects that it will run out by tomorrow night after the system is temporarily shut down on Tuesday.

The irrigation district starts with water from Howard Prairie Lake and Hyatt Reservoir before passing along Emigrant Lake to supply water to the Rogue Valley. Though called the Talent Irrigation District, it serves the Valley into Medford with water generally for agricultural usage. After the Almeda Fire, it was used for other water needs, including water for animals and flushing toilets.

Winters says the system has 33 days of water left, so if it continued to operate, then it could run dry next month. So, the Irrigation District Board has to shut down the irrigation system to meet some minimum water level requirements for the water supply lakes.

Winters says Howard Prairie Lake, for example, is very low — currently only about about six percent of its water capacity. He says rules also prevent another lake's level from getting so low that it pumps silt into the irrigation system.

Winters expects to reopen the irrigation system June 29, saying conditions are as dry as he has ever seen.

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