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Relying on melting glaciers as water source could spell trouble for Central Oregon, expert says

(Updated: adding video, comments from president of Oregon Glaciers Institute)

Water supplies are low, temperatures are high and glaciers are melting

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- In the summer, the snow from the mountains melts, and that's where Central Oregon gets its water. Since the region faces an extreme drought, that snowpack has already melted.

So our water source is coming from melting glaciers.

However, what does that mean for the local environment and wildlife?

Central Oregon used to have 29 glaciers, a half-century or so ago. That number has since dropped to 15, experts say. And it's expected to keep dropping.

Satellite images of the Three Sisters and Broken Top region show how the snowpack has changed over time.

In July 2019, there was a significant amount of snow on the mountains. In 2020, that amount became less, and has dropped even further, if we look at its current situation.

The president of the Oregon Glaciers Institute says Central Oregon is on a path to having no snow or glaciers -- which will impact the quality of life here in many ways.

"We're just going to be changing what lives in our mountains, and that will have all sorts of unintended consequences for the species that are losing area," Carlson said Wednesday. "Everything is going up, everything migrating up. Just as it gets warmer, as you go to higher elevations, you're trying to keep the same temperature. So you just go up the hill slope, so everything will migrate up the slope. And eventually, there's a top of the mountain, though."

Carlson says Central Oregon is on its way to one day becoming the next Las Vegas or Phoenix -- cities that rely on outside water sources to sustain their communities.

"That'll be the case in Bend. This daytime temperature might be too hot to do something outside, and so those trail runs you take in the afternoons, and the summers in the cool trees, it'll be different. It'll be drier and hotter, and the quality of life will change." Carlson told NewsChannel 21.

There's no way to predict how fast this change will happen. Carlson says it could be decades -- so it's not too far away, but also won't happen tomorrow.

Central Oregon / Government-politics / News / Top Stories / video - DO NOT USE
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Carly Keenan

Carly Keenan is a multimedia journalist and producer for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Carly here.



    1. You must have been dropped on your head as a child! It’s real….not a hoax..internationally confirmed…SCIENCE!!! Have you not been up to our mountains? Gone out side?

      1. Ah yes. And climate scientists warned us about the coming ice age in the 70s and 80s. Climate is always changing and there isn’t a dang thing power hungry corporatist marxist can do about it no matter how much money and power they take.

          1. Ive bring up the questioin of enough water for all the planned growth and and have been told here in the commet section for years that we have enough

    2. Just look up at the mountains overthereguy and compare the site to what it was for recent years at this time. Ever think there is a reason that Bachelor doesn’t have a July 4th ski day?

    3. “Relying on melting glaciers as water source could spell trouble for Central Oregon, expert says”

      – nope, doesn’t take an expert – any half-whit can figure it out…

    1. As long as the global population increases we’ll be seeing this “rampant growth.” The answer is 2 – two children. But that requires a new economic paradigm, and too many businesses are too dependent and invested in the present model.

  1. Yes it is climate change but tell me all you brain surgeons what you going to do to stop it. Now is time to shut down the watering of all these thousands of acres of unneeded lawn in our schools and government areas next private lawns and golf courses. New construction should not be allowed to put in lawns. Billions of dollars spent by fear mongers in public government politicians will not accomplish 0.

      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. If any liberal really cared they would openly call out China for producing more co2 than the rest of the world combined. But the won’t because their blind and scared little sheep.

      1. Truth… China produces more CO2 than any other country, but in 2017 their emissions accounted for 29% of world output. Suggest doing a little research before you throw around numbers you don’t understand.

        On the other hand, if you insist on spewing groundless arguments, please for the love of all that is holy figure out your grammar. It’s unreadable.

    2. Let’s not forget all of the water companies that fill millions of little plastic bottles. These companies are draining the aquifers and causing a lot of damage to our local wells. We have had to redrill our well three times in the 20 years we have been here. Stop buying these water bottles.

      1. Yes Coke is making a fortune off bottles filled with water provided by infrastructure paid for by our tax dollars, so a consumer essentially gets to pay for that water at least twice! Pretty stupid, huh?

  2. Welp, I know of a few folks that had new Wells drilled this Summer because the old one went dry. So there’s that. Can’t remember the last time I’ve skied waist deep Powder at Bachelor. 20yrs?

  3. Snowmelt, rain, and glaciers. What other water do we have in Central Oregon? As for getting warmer, one can still dig fossilized Palm trees in Oregon and Montana so that means we had a lot warmer climate at one time and we are just swinging back to that level. Remove all the dams in the west coast states and see what happens to the water table. I see some of the comments are more worried about skiing in July than the water table so that shows their priorities. But hey, No worries, Sleepy Creepy China Joe Obiden will fix everything, just ask Hunter and the ATF!

    1. That former subtropical climate you mention existed before the rise of the modern Cascades…you know, those mountains that now keep most of the precipitation falling to our west.

  4. Every single day that it’s cold outside you can count on some chucklehead saying… “Whelp.. I guess it’s Global Warming”. Then when it’s 110 in June you can also count on that same chucklehead NOT saying… “Hmm… Global Warming I guess”

    It’s my favorite dullard’s paradigm.

  5. In my near 55 year on this rock “experts” have declared we were all going to die every 6 months from some cataclysmic event that only “experts” high taxes, and liberals could prevent. And each time we only had a few years to act before we “tipped the scale.” AND every single time the “experts” were wrong. Because they aren’t experts. They are snake oil salesmen looking for money.

    1. So the people basing their warnings on science are snake oil salesmen but a sore loser claiming non-existent widespread election fraud and grifting millions into his PAC to “stop the steal” is one of your favorite people. Hmm?

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