The water levels of many local reservoirs are at historically low levels. Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
System shutdown will last at least two weeks
The Talent Irrigation District will shut down its entire irrigation system on Tuesday for at least two weeks in an effort to save scarce water during the ongoing drought.
âWe will do our best. We estimate it will be for two weeks, but if we get additional and noticeable precipitation we could extend it, âsaid TID Board Chairman Mike Winters. âWe ask for people’s patience. We just don’t have the water supply to keep everyone happy.
Recent rains have alleviated the immediate need to irrigate crops, although many reservoirs remain at historically low levels.
By saving water now, TID hopes to extend the irrigation season until Aug. 1 or perhaps later, when temperatures are typically above 90 or 100 degrees, Winters said.
âThe goal is to try and extend the season so that we can get another shot of water for everyone when the temperatures are the hottest,â he said.
Water users generally take turns drawing water from the canals. Those rounds could potentially be extended every three weeks to save water, Winters said.
The irrigation season could still end at the end of July despite water conservation measures, he warned.
Even though local irrigation districts are able to extend water supplies until August 1, that date is long before harvest time in local orchards, vineyards and marijuana and hemp.
âWe’re not talking about being able to produce a crop. While we would love to be able to help produce a crop, we are in disaster mode. We’re just trying to keep things alive, âWinters said.
Recent rains and clouds will give way to sunny skies and warm weather on Wednesday, with temperatures expected to reach 88 degrees. Temperatures will reach the mid-1990s on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, according to the National Weather Service.
TID is heavily dependent on water from Emigrant Lake, which is only 25% full, and Hyatt Lake, which is 19% full. Howard Prairie Lake is worst off at 7% of its capacity, according to Sunday data from the Oregon Department of Water Resources.
Medford Irrigation District Manager Jack Friend said MID would not shut off its water.
âWe will do our best to reach August,â he said.
Most of the water in the Medford District comes from Fish Lake, which is 47% full, and Fourmile Lake, which is 21% full. The district also draws water from the North Fork of Little Butte Creek.
The Rogue River Valley Irrigation District is not planning a water cutoff, said Brian Hampson, district manager.
He said the Rogue River District shared the water from Fish and Fourmile Lakes with the District of Medford and also used water from Emigrant Lake. The Rogue River District alone uses water from Agate Lake.
Lake Agate is 69% full, according to the data.
But the lake is small and empties every year, Hampson said.
Managers in the Medford and Rogue River irrigation districts said their systems would be affected by the closure of the Talent District irrigation system. Return flows from Talent District irrigators will not enter Bear Creek to supplement the water supply to downstream users.
âThis will be our first year of operating our system when they (TIDs) aren’t,â said Friend, the District Manager for Medford.
Recent rains have not filled local reservoirs, but they have helped irrigation districts slow the release of water, Hampson said.
But hot, dry weather later this week will spell trouble.
âIt will come back to where we were. There will be a fight with the Heat, âHampson said.
Local irrigation districts face consecutive years of drought. They emptied the tanks to limp during the 2020 season, then didn’t have enough snow or rain in the winter and spring to replenish the water supplies.
Additionally, the September 2020 wildfires cut power to many people who depend on wells for their homes and to water their livestock. TID kept running water for an additional week to allow these people access to water, Winters said.