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Wickiup Reservoir falls to lowest level in 50 years


Water levels are so low at Wickiup Reservoir that some farms in Culver and Madras may run out of water for their crops.

Roff Farms, for example, still needs about three weeks worth of water for its fields.

The Wickiup Reservoir is very low, according to Deschutes Basin Watermaster Jeremy Giffin.

“The current storage is about 5,000 acre feet, which puts it about 2 percent of capacity. We haven’t seen this level in Wickiup reservoir in about 50 years,” Giffin said Tuesday.

While a mostly dry reservoir at 2 percent capacity isn’t pretty, it’s not the looks that’s the problem, said farmer Loren Roff.

“Yeah — if there’s no water, we have no income,” Roff said. “Or we will potentially cut our income. Then we don’t spend any money here.”

Wickiup Reservoir, west of La Pine, supplies water to the North Unit Irrigation District, an area that stretches from south of Culver to north of Madras and includes many farms.

“Our biggest concern is, we have to water everything well enough so it will survive the winter” Roff said. “Because we get a lot of dry weather in the winter, too. So we’re concerned, especially for our new crops.”

Usually, the water is shut off the first or second week of October. But officials are worried they might run out of water much sooner than that.

“We’re kind of in unchartered territory right now,” Giffin said. “We haven’t been in a situation where one of our reservoirs has been completely emptied before. And it is possible for Wickiup to go all the way completely empty within the next 10 days.”

The problem’s cause is multifaceted — the dry spring and summer, an increased reliance on stored water, and new water-release requirements upstream under an agreement to protect the spotted frog.

“Have to have enough water to keep them alive,” Roff said.”If we knew it was going to rain a lot in a week or two, we’d be OK, but we don’t know that.”

North Unit Irrigation District officials are meeting this week to figure out how to move forward with the limited water supply. NewsChannel 21 will keep you updated as we learn more.

Here’s a place to track levels at Central Oregon reservoirs:

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