(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.