Low water supplies last longer than last year
Emigrant Lake, part of the local irrigation storage system, was down to 7% full Wednesday. The Talent Irrigation District and the Medford Irrigation District announced they would shut off water to their irrigation canals on Friday. The Rogue River Valley Irrigation District estimates it could provide water until September 9. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]
Thousands of irrigation customers will lose water after dwindling supplies force the Talent Irrigation District and Medford Irrigation District to shut off water from their canals on Friday.
As the water drains, users at the lower end of the canals may still have water through Saturday.
The Rogue River Valley Irrigation District, which has an additional water supply with Agate Lake, hopes its water will flow until sometime between September 6 and September 9.
Years of drought have depleted local irrigation reservoirs. Lake Agate north of Medford filled this spring, but other reservoirs designed to hold irrigation water entered the irrigation season just 6% to 50% full, data from the US Bureau of Reclamation.
On Wednesday, Agate Lake – a small reservoir – was 43% full. But Emigrant Lake near Ashland had shrunk to 7% of its capacity. To the east, Hyatt Lake was 2% full, Howard Prairie Lake was 6% full, Fish Lake was 14% full and Fourmile Lake was 12% full, according to Bureau of Reclamation data.
Rains in April and May helped local irrigation districts delay the start of their seasons and gain extra weeks at the end.
Last year, TID shut down in mid-July, while MID and RRVID limped through early August. The irrigation seasons lasted until autumn.
Although irrigation districts held water longer in the summer this year, they struggled with problems.
The spring rains that helped them postpone the start of their irrigation seasons and save water had a downside.
“The rain was good, don’t get me wrong, but it did grow a lot of grass in the canals,” said Brian Hampson, director of RRVID. “The grass prevents the water from flowing freely.”
RRVID had already cleaned its channels once to prepare for the start of the season.
“We started having running water and had the same problems as the other districts. We worked frantically to clear the channels again. We used a rake on an excavator to remove this weed,” Hampson said.
But overall, Hampson said, RRVID’s season has gone better than he originally thought.
“I would like to thank the bosses of the Rogue River Valley Irrigation District for their support this season. And hopefully more rain next season,” Hampson said.
Both TID and MID said they had problems getting water to customers at the end of their canal systems.
“When it all started, we were struggling to get the water to the bottom of the canals,” said TID manager Wanda Derry.
Users at the top of the system were drawing water, and with reduced supplies, water was not reaching people downstream. TID moved to a rotational system of closing users at the top in order to catch up to users at the bottom, Derry said.
She said the Rogue Valley irrigation system relies on unpredictable rainfall. Everyone must do their part to save water.
“We rely on Mother Nature – and whatever rain and snow we get is what we get,” she said. “We would like to thank our water users who have worked with us to make the best of a not so good situation.”
MID shut off water to users at the top of its system, operated excavators to clear vegetation from canals, and increased discharge from its reservoirs in an effort to reach all users. But the limited supply of reservoirs proved difficult.
MID director Jack Friend said the spring rains were moistening the ground but not filling local reservoirs.
“The grass was growing at the bottom of the ditch like never before. We had problems with leaks like never before. We had issues getting water through the whole system,” Friend said.
He said the MID board had held meetings to address public concerns and were planning further meetings to look at ways to get water to all users in the district.
“We will find ways to solve this problem to serve customers as fairly as possible. The system wasn’t designed to work the way we’ve had to for the past few years,” Friend said. “We are seriously considering what needs to be done moving forward. We can’t work like that anymore. »
Contact Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.