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State snowpack averages 124 percent above normal

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The highest storage is in the Deschutes and Crooked River basins, which are at 90 percent.


All basins in Oregon are experiencing normal to above-normal snowpack with a statewide average of 124 percent of normal, according to the firest water supply outlook report of the year released Jan. 9 by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Record-breaking October precipitation provided a much needed wet start to the water year (which runs Oct. 1 through Sept. 31). The wet autumn was followed by a cold and snowy December, which produced snow accumulation in lower elevation sites and even on valley floors.

"The snowpack accumulation season has started off well," said Scott Oviatt, NRCS snow survey supervisory hydrologist. "The fall and early winter precipitation have provided relief to many areas that were moisture-depleted following a hot, dry August."

"If the cool and wet pattern continues through the winter and spring months, then the snowpack accumulation will continue to be normal or above normal, and spring snow melt will occur slowly over an extended period," he said. "That was not the case last year, when we observed rapid, record-breaking snowpack melt-out and runoff."

Most reservoirs in the state are currently storing below-average amounts of water. Below-normal streamflow this past summer, coupled with water usage in 2016, led to below-average volumes going into this new season.

As of the end of December, the reservoirs storing the lowest amount in the state are in the Umatilla, Walla Walla and Willow basins at 56 percent of average. The highest storage is in the Deschutes and Crooked River basins at 90 percent of average.

As of Jan. 1, most of the spring and summer water supply forecasts are projecting near average to above average streamflow volumes, while the current snowpack is near normal to above normal.

Last year at this time, the statewide snowpack was also above normal and continued to hover near normal through April 1. However, rapid and record-breaking snowmelt occurred during April, which led to below normal summer streamflow.

The latest information on Oregon's streamflow forecasts can be found in the January Water Supply Outlook Report, available on the NRCS Oregon website.

The NRCS Snow Survey is the federal program that measures snow and provides streamflow forecasts and snowpack data for communities, water managers and recreationalists across the West. In Oregon, snow measurements are collected from 81 SNOTEL sites, 42 manually measured snow courses, and 26 aerial markers.

Water and snowpack information for all SNOTEL sites nationwide is available on the Snow Survey website in a variety of formats. The reports are updated every hour and are available at: www.or.nrcs.usda.gov/snow.

NRCS publishes six monthly Oregon Water Supply Outlook Reports between Jan. 1 and June 1 every year. To regularly receive the information as an email announcement, visit the Oregon NRCS Snow Survey website and click the "email updates" icon to subscribe.