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Deschutes County

‘Very bad news’: Wickiup Reservoir hits record-low level for this early in summer

(Update: adding video, info, comments from Deschutes Basin watermaster)

Irrigation districts, customers will be running out of water

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- In the 75-year history of the Wickiup Reservoir, water levels have never been this low so early in the summer.

Water is commonly measured in acre feet. Deschutes Basin Watermaster Jeremy Giffin said Friday the reservoir west of La Pine is at 28,000 acre-feet of water. To put it into perspective, Giffin said it would be measured at 130,000 acre-feet in a normal year.

One acre-foot is about 326,000 gallons, or enough water to cover an acre of land, which is about the size of a football field, one foot deep.

That means the reservoir is more than 33 billion gallons of water short. It's just 14% full -- and it's not the only Central Oregon reservoir that's very low, according to the US Bureau of Reclamation's "teacup" diagram.

Giffin said this is "very bad news" for the irrigation districts.

"At the rate that we're dropping Wickiup Reservoir, current projections have it empty at about middle of August," Giffin said. "Our first district to run out of water will likely be the Arnold Irrigation District in southeast Bend. They'll likely run out of water the first week of August."

Then in md-August, the North Unit irrigation District in Madras, which according to Giffin is the best crop producer in Central Oregon, would be the next to go.

It does not end there.

“Here in the city limits, the Deschutes River flowing through town will probably drop about a third of it's flow, which is very abnormal for this time of year,” Giffin said.

Barring some extreme weather events this winter, Giffin says we'll likely be in the same situation next year.

While this is historic news, Giffin told Newschannel 21 it's not a surprise, and the irrigation districts have been preparing for this for some time now.

Central Oregon / Environment / Local News / News / Top Stories / video - DO NOT USE
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Max Goldwasser

Max Goldwasser is a reporter and producer for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Max here.



    1. That news was a couple years ago. New residents have no knowledge of that and belive the media. Resivors were supposed to help farmers in times of drout. Rulings in the courts over the past 10 yrs have drained the resivors when we need them most.

      1. Third time trying to get a comment past your ridiculous system Barney. Surely if this genius can dribble on about “drout” in the “resivors”, we can point out his idiocy.

      2. The lord commanded that crops be raised from the dust of the desert to show our love for him. This impossible task is designed by him to test our faith. Do not give in to the heathen that love the earth!!!! The word of victory is destroy what you can’t understand!!!!

          1. I do not question the word of the lord or the greatest president in the history of America Donald Trump!!! When he is reinstated next month he will fix this.

    2. Well, Crane Prairie is doing well to keep water for the spotted frog or what ever they call them. They are not native to this side of the mountain. Never will be. Why? 1.- They are native to the west side of mountain.2.- West side of mountain seldom gets below 25 degrees. 3. river on west side are slow moving rivers. 4. East side of mountain rarely gets above freezing in winter. 5.- Rivers on east side move fast.
      just 75 miles distance is a world of distance in an eco system. You can kill every species to promote a single species. But in the end you end up with no species of any kind left.

  1. Good thing they drained it for the frog. Now they can’t get it back to normal because of drought conditions. Nice work environmentalists. Way to endanger other species to save one…nice

    1. so, you think this “engineered” water maze is “normal” – this is why people with a highly limited perception of reality should refrain from commenting on…. everything really

          1. You are missing one of the best demonrat accomplishments, on how to F up a state, although orygon’s governor is trying very hard to match the accomplishments of calif.

    2. It’s worse than that. You can’t fill the reservoirs all the way anymore, even if you do have the water. The frog agreement was devastating on many levels.

          1. What a hoot. Those”natives” you mentioned had kicked someone else out – or killed them off – to take over these lands. They are no more native than the spotted frog.

  2. Yes yes, animals and crops are dying, but what about the poor golf courses? Are they gonna be ok? Wont someone think of the golf courses?!

      1. The average golf course uses approximately 317,000 gallons per day.

        An average brewery requires seven gallons of water to make one gallon of beer. An average brewery would have to be making 45,285 gallons of beer per day to compare to the average golf course.

        1. There are more breweries in CO than golf courses- I did some simple math- the breweries use 16 million gallons a day- the Golf courses 9 million. This round goes to 2pei !

          1. According to Visit Central Oregon there are 30 golf courses in Central Oregon. At average use that would place the amount of water used at 9,510,000 gallons.

            According to Beer Me Bend, there are 31 breweries. To use an equivalent amount of water, these breweries would need to produce a collective 1,358,571 gallons of beer per day. Or about 43,824 gallons of beer per day each. That’s 43,824 standard barrels of beer per day collectively or 1,413 standard barrels of beer per day individually.

            The golf courses use more water. Unless you want to believe the breweries in Central Oregon make more craft beer in 19 days than the entire state of Oregon produces in a year.

  3. Even though Wickiup has been low in the past it wasn’t nearly as bad since they put in the surf park and kept the river up for all the floaters.

        1. Downstream flow was increased for the spotted frog breeding area right acros ron the Old Mill District, the benefit to the water park is a byproduct.

          1. Uh sure ok. So your saying spotted frog breed all summer? So you are saying it is a coincidence they increased the water flow took out the dam under the Colorado Bridge and revamped that hole part of the river for a water park for the thousands of floaters and happen to benefit off the timing of the frogs breeding season?

            1. Yep, and the brown trout. Look at how much water was left in the river below Bend 30 years ago. It was about 30 CFS.The extra water released from Wickiup goes on all winter long now. Water thet could be filling Wickiup. And don’t think 46.000 af in Crane Prairie means that water is available. It can’t be drawn below 35.000 to protect frog habitat.

      1. It has nothing to do with the damned frog. The simple fact of the matter is that we haven’t got enough rain and snow. The rest is more or less irrelevant.

  4. Start the irrigation season even a week later would help? Why not turn down the flow, even just a little from the start? Kermit is the only frog I like.

  5. I am not sure what “preparing for this” means. As an Arnold irrigator out of water means the end of green pasture, hay or other crop production, return land to desert. Water is already VERY expensive and running out is an economic disaster. The frog survived 72 years without the river at abnormal highs all winter. This is a red herring to support river recreation, not a real conservation issue.

    1. “This is a red herring to support river recreation, not a real conservation issue.”

      Now this is guy or gal who gets it. Its cliche, but “follow the money”.

  6. We have lived in the Land of Denial for too long.
    Buying water in a bottle is ridiculous, horrible for the environment, and should end.
    Brewing companies should diminish or halt production until the drought ends.
    Farmers growing crops in the desert will be subsidised for halting water use until the drought ends, or allowed to fail due to a reality-check.
    Water recreation companies, golf-courses, etc. will be allowed to fail.
    Expanding the urban growth zone and building MORE and MORE houses is ludicrous.
    Water reality is about to slap us silly.
    Everything is about to change.

    1. Gee- I dunno… Biden told ‘Merika he would shut down US gas and oil, raise yer taxes, make you wear a mask the first 100 days, and undo (through executive orders) hundreds of President Trump’s pro business initiatives… I’d say he’s done “exactly” what he said he was gonna do… aint it great !

  7. It is sad. We spent some time there last month and were just saying how low it is. Sadly, it appears many commenters do not care about being good stewards of the earth. Rather, they believe scientists are wrong and anti-God in every sense. They like to think of themselves as special or enlightened, but in fact are no less enlightened than people who burned witches. They have probably never read the destruction of Milton Freidman economics and cover their ears when people say anything that goes against their “divine” rights. I don’t believe their is anything divinely right about whatever religion and beliefs they spread. They don’t believe in the Holy Spirit, rather an old rich man is who they follow and they believe everyone else is on the wrong path. They are seeking blood and in my opinion, not much different than a person with little ability to empathize with others, not even cognitive empathy. They’ve been socialized that others are expendable and that by divine right, they hate with full authority in the name of “God” Make no mistake, they are not going to hear you. It’s not worth casting pearls of wisdom and just makes us all foolish. They won’t be happy with anything but destruction and name calling. They are not of God, no matter what words they pronounce. You will know Him by His fruits. They bear no fruit.

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