Oregon cities urge water conservation as supplies begin drying up

By Tracy Loew
Statesman Journal

As Oregon’s drought deepens and its rivers recede, cities around the state are beginning to impose water curtailment measures.

At least a dozen cities, including Keizer, Silverton, Molalla, Lake Oswego and Bend have implemented Stage 1 voluntary conservation measures.

They’re asking residents to take measures such as avoiding daytime lawn and garden watering, and restricting watering based on odd/even address numbers.

The city of Yachats is warning that Stage 2 restrictions are imminent, and Ashland and Banks also warn that mandatory restrictions may be necessary.

Stage 2 restrictions can include a ban on watering lawns and washing cars, sidewalks and driveways.

It’s the fourth straight year of drought in the West.

Vancouver, B.C. this week imposed Stage 3 water restrictions, prohibiting residents from watering lawns, refilling swimming their swimming pools or washing their cars.

In hard-hit California, state prisons have even reduced inmate showers and limited how often toilets can be flushed.

And residents have taken to “drought shaming” neighbors, calling them out on social media for wasting water.

In Oregon, Governor Kate Brown has declared drought emergencies in three more counties, bringing the total to 23 of Oregon’s 36 counties.

That’s more than double the 10 drought declarations made last year, and matches the record set in 2002.

“The extreme drought conditions we are experiencing reflect a new reality in Oregon,” Brown said.

The U.S. Drought Monitor puts the entire state in moderate drought, with most of Oregon in severe or extreme drought.

Meanwhile, Oregon’s snowpack this year measured the lowest in 35 years. That’s resulted in near-record low streamflows, including in the coastal areas.

The Molalla River, which supplies drinking water to the city of Molalla, had record-low flows in June.

Lake Oswego imposed restrictions for the first time because Clackamas River streamflows are so low.

In Junction City, low river flows are causing groundwater for the city’s wells to drop.

“Streams across the state are showing conditions that are four to six weeks early,” said Diana Enright, water policy analyst for the Oregon Water Resources Department. “In other words, we’re seeing mid-August conditions now.”

Salem officials say the city most likely won’t have to implement water use restrictions this year.

Despite dramatically low water levels at Detroit Reservoir, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers still must release water into the North Santiam River, the city’s drinking water source, to protect endangered fish and ensure crop irrigation.

“We’re not worried for now, but every two weeks the Corps evaluates the situation,” said Peter Fernandez, Salem public works director.

The city also is keeping all of its reservoirs and its 600 million gallon underground water storage system, located in basalt formations beneath Woodmansee Park, filled to the maximum.

See the original article posted here.

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