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  • Rick Bonetti

Rogue Valley's Water Situation

Updated: Apr 8



The State of Oregon Water Resources Department is updating its Integrated Water Resources Strategy (IWRS). The first draft March 1, 2024 Strategy is available here. Comments from the April 5, 2024 deadline will be incorporated into the Strategy, and a new draft will be shared for a second round of comments in May 2024. The draft Strategy says, "The current water challenge is we are not currently meeting Oregon’s water needs."

"Over the past decade, Oregon has experienced six years that are among the hottest ten on record. In addition, the state has experienced the lowest snowpack ever observed, and had one of the most severe wildfire seasons." ~ 2024 IWRS draft

The southern portion of central Oregon is currently classified in a "moderate drought' condition. In the Rogue Valley rainfall has been 50-75% of normal over the last 30 days, placing it just outside in the "abnormally dry" category according to the latest Jackson County drought map.


Reservoirs are only partially full, except for Agate. Talent Irrigation District (TID) reports that "reservoir levels are looking better than they have for several years, however, that is mainly due to the water we were able to carry over from last irrigation season. The snowpack this winter has been considerably less than we had last year."


The Jackson Soil and Water Conservation District concerns itself with water quality and conservation issues in Jackson County. The JSWCD says, "As Jackson County's population grows and the climate continues to change, water conservation will be of ever-growing importance to utilize our water resources as effectively as we can and ensure water availability for human and environmental needs."


The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has a portal addressing drought in the West. As the nation’s largest wholesale water supplier, its mission is "to manage, develop, and protect water and related resources in an environmentally and economically sound manner in the interest of the American public"


The Old Farmers Almanac's has statistical data, planting calendars, frost dates, weather forecasts, history, and lore. Their April 2024 Long Range Weather Forecast for the Pacific Northwest calls for slightly higher than average temperatures and precipitation.


 

On April 9, 2024, from 6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. PDT - OSU Southern Oregon Extension Service is offering a presentation on Landscaping for Water Conservation as part of their Sustainable Living Series. They will cover principles of waterwise landscaping, including the use of drought-tolerant plants, sprinkler schedules, and overall water conservation, as well as basic stormwater management. The cost is $15 per person to help support their Land Steward Program. Click here for a flyer, registration QR code, and link.


 

Tracey Reed and Chris Hall of the Water League report they will be active in Earth Day activities at SOU on 4/19; at Williams on 4/21; and at Rogue Community College on 4/22.


Oregon Water Justice Alliance was co-founded with the Water League, focusing on indigenous people and their allies together for tribal water rights and ancestral lands, communities, and fish.


Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC) held the 42nd annual event in Eugene, Oregon on March 1, 2024. The Water League hosted two panels and built relationships to support their vision.


Integrated Water Resources Strategy – As noted above, an update to this Strategy is currently underway; the Strategy is the entirety of how the state manages water and since we will live with this update for the next eight years we must get it right for the public and the environment. There are 30 pages of comments, and here is a link to a press release summary.


Off-shore Wind Turbines - University of Oregon interns this winter/spring are researching what few consider - the cons of off-shore wind. We must decarbonize/drawdown, but must not hide from the negative impacts these leviathans externalize. See Water League HB 4080-A testimony


Pumped storage hydroelectric plants - Chris Hall has written a Local Op-Ed on the confounding issues of energy use. Chris is also tracking the Public Utilities Commission for whether back-to-back rate hikes become promissory notes to boondoggles (e.g.: pumped storage does not pencil out unless there are non-stop back-to-back rate increases for the next 50 years, etc.)


1955 Groundwater Act – The Water League is conducting comprehensive research of the thousand+ pages of notes, bills, exhibits, and transcripts from Oregon Archives to uncover how the biggest PR disaster OWRD stepped into could happen (sent legislative bill request). This little string could unravel the sweater…" DIV 512 Rule-making on designating Critical Groundwater Areas (the first in 30+ years) is spiraling out of control according to Chris and the Water League is working to make sure irrigators don’t imperil it. This process and results will inform all others that come after it. Groundwater Allocation rule-making – comments due May 31, 2024 – Southern Oregon public hearing about strengthening standards for acquiring groundwater water rights is scheduled for May 16, 2024, from 7-9 p.m. in the Jackson County Auditorium, 7520 Table Rock Rd., Central Point, OR.


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