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February eases drought conditions

PORTLAND, Oregon – The shortest month of the year delivered record-breaking snowfall across Washington and Oregon, dramatically improving the summer water supply outlook. The Natural Resources Conservation Service has released it’s March water supply outlook report, and the news for the snow-pack and projected stream-flow points to an adequate water supply for many areas.

The NRCS cautions that the next few weeks will ultimately determine the water supply picture for spring and summer. The report states that drought concerns were not entirely eliminated, however. Extreme drought status has dropped across the state of Oregon, but more than 60 percent of Oregon remains in a moderate to severe drought. Eastern Oregon is below the fold, ranging from normal to extremely dry conditions.

For an adequate summer water supply, if the next few months are stormy and on the cool side, streams will experience at least their normal seasonal flow and drought will continue to decrease. If there are sustained warm periods and long stretches of dry weather, the water supply forecasts will likely decrease.

Because of abundant mountain snow-pack on March 1, the NRCS expects spring and summer stream-flow to be near to well above normal in most parts of the state. The highest streamflow forecasts are in Eastern Oregon. The Umatilla, Walla Walla, and Willow basins are forecast to flow at 140 percent of normal April through September, the highest in the state.

There are a few areas where the streamflow forecasts remain below normal. They are in parts of the Deschutes River Basin and the Mount Hood Region, where they stood at a projected 80 to 95 percent of normal on March 1.

Every long-term snow monitoring site in Oregon received above average February precipitation, with many sites getting well over 200 percent of average.

“Unseasonably cold temperatures and ample moisture in February were welcome signs of improvement for Oregon’s water supply and drought situations,” Snow Survey Supervisory Hydrologist Scott Oviatt said. “This report serves as a good reminder that forecasts should be used as guidance, not gospel, as conditions can and do change rapidly.”

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