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Warmer, drier spring could effect summer water supply in Hood, Sandy, Lower Deschutes region

COURTESY PHOTO: OREGON SNOW SURVEY - As of March 30, the Hood, Sandy, Lower Deschutes region has an average snowpack of 91% of normal. Last year at this time, hydrologists were concerned. The snowpack, or snow water equivalent (SWE), reading on Mount Hood was 88% of normal. In the bigger picture, that meant possible ramifications in terms of water for the year.

This year, the picture is much the same. As of March 30, the SWE measures at 91% of normal for the Hood, Sandy Lower Deschutes region, and the precipitation for the year is measuring in at around 83% of normal.

With the peak of the season to hit within about a week, Scott Oviatt with the Oregon Snow Survey doesn't see the outlook changing much for the year.

Oviatt noted that we're fortunate that the "few storms we've had have held (that snowpack) in place," adding that the larger concern remains the water per year we've received.

"We're at almost 20% below normal," Oviatt said. "This is due to late October to January being very dry and warm. That could play into later year streamflow."

COURTESY PHOTO: OREGON SNOW SURVEY - As of March 30, the Hood, Sandy, Lower Deschutes region has received 83% of normal precipitation. As of the USDA's March outlook report, the April through September streamflow forecasts in the basin were forecasted to range from 92% to 96% of average.

"Overall, forecasts decreased slightly from last month's report," the reported indicated. "Water supplies in the basin are likely to be below normal to near normal this summer."

On the bright side, Oviatt explained, the most snow in the northern Cascades is more concentrated in the Bull Run Watershed area, which is "good news for the Sandy and Portland areas."

"It's a mixed bag," Oviatt said. "We kind of have to wait and see what spring brings."

Maintaining even the less-than-desirable levels of precipitation and snowpack the region has will be dependent on the wetness and coolness of the next few months.

"If we keep the showers going like we have been, and stay cool enough, we should be fine," Oviatt said. "I think it would be prudent for people to be thinking along (proactive) lines. A warmer, drier spring could effect water supply."

The USDA provides daily updates on snowpack and precipitation per year levels online at www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/or/snow/.


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