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Early snowpack report shows Oregon at 138 percent normal

NRCS cautiously optimistic about end of drought conditions

The Natural Resources Conservation Society’s first Oregon water supply outlook report for 2016 shows that winter has indeed returned to Oregon.

The report gives data showing all of Oregon’s basins are experiencing above-normal snowpack levels.

“Following a year of record-low snowpack, water shortages, fires and widespread drought across the state, water users and water managers are cautiously optimistic that a successful start to 2016 will enable drought recovery,” said a news release accompanying the report on Friday, Jan. 8.

As of Jan. 1, the snowpack, as measured by the water content of the snow, was 138 percent of normal. A stark contrast from last year at the same date, when the snowpack was only at 51 percent of normal.

“This is the scenario we had hoped for following last year’s extreme drought conditions,” said Melissa Webb, NRCS snow survey hydrologist. “The fall and early winter precipitation have started to fill reservoirs across the state that were heavily depleted going into the fall. Also, the snowpack that we have right now in the mountains is more than we had at any time last year, which is very encouraging.”

The state’s snowpack measurements are collected by the NRCS Oregon Snow Survey at 81 snow telemetry, or SNOTEL sites, 42 manually measured snow courses and 26 aerial markers.

Given the current abundance of snowpack, the NRCS’s streamflow forecasts predict near normal to well-above-normal flows for this summer.

“We hope that winter will bring more snow to continue boosting the snowpack so that water users can experience some relief from last year’s drought conditions,” Webb said.

The full report from Jan. 1 can be accessed at ftp.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov/states/or/watersupply/2016/WSOR_2016_Jan.pdf.