As summer starts to sizzle in Central Oregon, the region's reservoirs remain robust.
Reservoirs in the Deschutes and Crooked river drainages all were more than 75 percent full as of Tuesday, according to Bureau of Reclamation data.
Wintry weather kept irrigation water demand low this spring and early summer, leading to the healthy water supply now, said Jeremy Giffin, Deschutes River Basin watermaster for the state Water Resources Department.
“People are not watering as much when we have a cool, wet spring,” he said.
Demand on the rise
Demand for irrigation water has started rising with temperatures, but there is plenty of water in the reservoirs to meet the need, said Steve Johnson, district manager for the Central Oregon Irrigation District. The district supplies water to farms and ranches on about 44,000 acres, mostly in Crook and Deschutes counties.
“The supply is good,” Johnson said. He added that the outlook for the remainder of the season is good as well.
In response to the increased demand, the Water Resources Department raised the amount of water flowing out of Wickiup Reservoir over the last five days, Giffin said. Flows from the reservoir — which feeds into the Deschutes River — went from about 1,300 cubic feet per second July 5 to about 1,700 cubic feet per second Tuesday.
“That will generally satisfy even the highest demand in Bend,” he said.
Such flows are typical when temperatures in Central Oregon reach 90 degrees, Johnson said.
Given the fairly full reservoirs, Giffin said he expects plenty of water will be left at the end of this irrigation season to be carried over to the next irrigation season.
The large amount of water in the reservoirs and flowing down the river this summer should be good for fish, said Brett Hodgson, district fisheries biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in Bend. The high water over the spring and early summer washed nutrients into the reservoirs while creating more breeding waters for insects, increasing the amount of food available for fish.
The deep waters in the reservoirs could make catching fish more of a challenge this summer, as the fish will be more dispersed than they are when waters are lows.
“It can make them more difficult to find,” Hodgson said.