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Environment, Energy and Transportation

Talent Irrigation District Shuts Off Flows For At Least Two Weeks

Erik Neumann/JPR
Howard Prairie Lake in 2020. Howard Prairie Lake is one of the water storage sites that feeds into the Rogue Valley's Talent Irrigation District. Water in the district was shut off on June 15 for at least two weeks.

A dry summer, after previous drought years, has led to irrigation water in the Rogue Valley being turned off for at least two weeks.

The Talent Irrigation District is a system of canals that delivers water from reservoirs in Jackson County to the Rogue Valley’s famous orchards and wineries. Helicopters used water from the same reservoirs to stop last year’s Almeda Fire. “TID” water goes to irrigators in Ashland, Talent and Phoenix.

But for the next two weeks, the system won’t be running because of the need to conserve a shrinking supply.

“This is the worst year that I remember,” says Talent Irrigation District President Mike Winters. “When the system is full, we have about a three-year supply of water where we can go back-to-back droughts for three years. But we’ve been steadily going down, steadily hitting that savings account and at this point we’re bottoming out.”

Winters says very little water from snowmelt made it into storage at Howard Prairie Lake, Hyatt Lake and Emigrant Lake this year, because of parched ground from last year’s drought. As of June 14, those reservoirs are at 7% capacity, 19% capacity and 24% capacity respectively.

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Talent Irrigation District
Water storage supply levels for the Talent Irrigation District.

“We’ve got real problems now. If we don’t have a good winter – a lot of rain, good snowfall, and such – we’re going to have a real problem next year,” Winters says.

The irrigation system will be shut off until June 29. Water managers are hoping conserving the water they have left will help growers get through the hottest part of the summer.