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Runoff projections for Prineville and Ochoco Reservoir look good so far this winter

 - Ochoco Irrigation District staff members check the snowpack at three different locations on a monthly basis during the winter.

Headed into the 2020 season, irrigation districts within Crook County are looking at relatively average water projections.

At the 40th Annual Central Oregon Farm Fair and Trade Show in Madras last week, Jonathan La Marche, a state hydrologist, gave an update on each irrigation district within the entire Deschutes Basin.

He said that for Ochoco Irrigation District, the inflow, as of Jan. 1, the most recent data available when he spoke at the event, is at 70 to 75% of average.

Bruce Scanlon, with Ochoco Irrigation District, said Wednesday, "In short, the water year is on track to be about average for our area. That is, of course, provided that we continue to get our average precipitation in late summer."

"(It's) still early, but we are optimistic that we will have an average allotment for the year," said Scanlon.

The water within the district primarily comes out of Prineville and Ochoco reservoirs, relying almost entirely on snowpack and runoff to fill the reservoirs.

"We do rely on Prineville, and to a lesser degree Ochoco, but we believe that we will be in a good place come irrigation season. Our water is almost completely from snowpack and runoff.

"The runoff projections look good at this point," Scanlon continued. "Carryover is good in both facilities with Prineville reporting 62% full right now and Ochoco 48% full. Both of these facilities will see the vast majority of inflows with the snowmelt in the coming months."

The Snow Telemetry Network — or SNOTEL — monitors snowpack, precipitation, temperature, and other climatic conditions and data from the system can report the snow water equivalent from the snow that has fallen there.

SNOTEL data for Derr Meadows, a site out near Mitchell that runs off into the Crooked River and eventually Prineville Reservoir, reports that as of Feb. 12, there is 9.1 inches of water tied up in the 30 inches of snow in that location. In other words, if the snow were to melt now,that's how much water would run off.

For Derr Meadows, that number is slightly below the average. The reported average snow water equivalent for the area from 1981 to 2010 is 10.8 inches.

Ochoco Meadows, another SNOTEL site near Walton Lake, reports a snow depth of 22 inches and a snow water equivalency of 8.2 inches, slightly above the site average of 7.9 inches. That water ends up in Ochoco Creek and eventually Ochoco Reservoir.

While Ochoco Irrigation District services the majority of the area, Central Oregon Irrigation District also delivers water to about 700 residents of west Crook County. DOID pulls water from the Deschutes River.

According to COID spokesperson Shon Rae, the district isn't expecting any "curtailment" in getting water to patrons this year.

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