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Oregon still needs moisture to combat years-long drought


Oregon needs a lot more precipitation to avoid deepening drought. That’s the conclusion of experts at a recent meeting of the Pacific Northwest Drought Early Warning System.

Larry O’Neill is the State Climatologist for Oregon. He said the good news is, cold temperatures in November and December have helped build Oregon’s snowpack to well above normal. However, he said reservoir levels remain low as a result of a multi-year drought.

“Much of Oregon’s reservoir system has relatively little to no carry over going into this water year," said O'Neill, "so we’re really depending on precipitation and snowpack during this winter to get some sort of adequate water supply.”

O’Neill said about 60 percent of the state is in some form of drought. He says if conditions remain dry, it could lead to water restrictions, especially for irrigation on farms in central Oregon. O’Neill said it’s still early in the rainy season, with time to make up the deficit, or trend drier.

Experts also shared that because recent snow fell on dry soil, a larger portion of the spring's snowmelt will go into the soil, instead of draining to rivers and reservoirs.

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Karen Richards