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The snow central Oregon has been missing this winter may affect water levels this year.
   But then again, it might not.
   "It's just too early to tell," said Russell Rhoden, Oregon Irrigation District (OID) manager.
   "We definitely need a change in weather. We are having warm days and cool nights and that's not going to fill the reservoir," said Rhoden.
   To gauge the amount of snow that the area will have during the dryer months, OID takes measurements at snotels and snow courses around the central Oregon area. Two are at Derr Meadows and Ochoco Meadows, and a snow course is present at Marks Creek.
   Readings gathered on Feb. 1, 2005 showed that Derr and Ochoco Meadows both had an average snow depth of 18 inches on the snow course, which translates to about 6 inches of water content.
   The same time last year, Derr and Ochoco Meadows had 29 inches and 31 inches, respectively. The numbers equaled about 8.5 and 9.8 inches of water content.
   Measurements from Marks Creek show there was 6.5 inches as of Feb. 1, equaling about 2.1 inches of water content. Last year, there was 16 inches and about 5.4 inches of water content.
   "People need to understand last year was an exceptional year," said Rhoden.
   The water content in the Deschutes Basin last year was above the 30-year average, while this year's numbers are sliding below the area's 30-year average.
   The snow that melts off from Derr Meadows drains into the Crooked River system and the Prineville Reservoir. The snow at Ochoco Meadows and Marks Creek drains into Walton Lake and the Ochoco Creek.
   "The bright spot is that the reservoir is in good shape so far. And Ochoco is in good shape for this time of year," said Rhoden. As of Feb. 1, Prineville Reservoir had 92,018 acre feet, which is approximately 7,000 acre feet above last year. Ochoco Reservoir contained 26,093 acre feet, compared to the 19,058 acre feet it held last February. "We are fortunate to have what we have. Other areas are worse off, but do we want more? Yes, of course," said Rhoden.
   "After the readings at the end of February we'll have a better picture," he said.
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