Water is tight as season nears end
As an update to my June water report, early season dry conditions, poor snow accumulation in the mountains, and a Wickiup sinkhole led to a less than favorable start to water supply conditions early in the irrigation season.
Now, compounding those issues has been a long, dry hot spell that began in early July and continues in to mid-August, topped off with no measurable precipitation!
On Monday, Aug. 20, Wickiup reservoir level was at 34,000 acre-feet. That may seem like plenty of water, but when you factor in evaporation, seepage and transportation losses, senior water right calls, etc., it really isn't that much water.
On the positive side, as Crane Prairie recedes, less seepage loss is realized, which means more natural flow becomes available. As bad as supply conditions have been, North Unit Irrigation District has received natural flow for all months, even with natural flow running approximately 150 cfs below average.
Regarding natural flow, we will likely realize a bump in natural flow in mid-September, as senior water right holders enter into their shoulder seasons. However, senior holders entering into their shoulder seasons will likely result in calls for stored water that remains available to senior users.
Similarly, on the Crooked River side of the equation, conditions have not improved and as noted in the June report, NUID has made a call on 10,000 acre-feet of water out of Prineville Reservoir of which we anticipate using all of the 10,000 acre-feet. This could impact the amount of water available to the district next year from Prineville should we experience below average winter conditions.
As of this update, approximately 5,000 of the 10,000 acre-feet remains available to be pumped. The long and short of it is the district is cautiously optimistic water supplies will last through September. We anticipate Wickiup being drawn down to a level not seen in decades, which obviously will have an effect on next year's water supplies and district operations.
Lastly, what remains to be seen is the amount of water NUID patrons will call upon for the remainder of the season; that's really what will end up making or breaking the season. That said, being conservative and being careful not to use more water than absolutely necessary will go a long way in stretching out the season.