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Water levels bleak, drought emergency possible

Watermaster Brian Mayer’s recent presentation to the Lake County Board of Commissioners on current water conditions led to the board deciding the time is ripe for a drought declaration.

Mayer spoke to the Commissioners on Tuesday, Jan. 28, in reviewing the dry conditions prevailing so far this winter season.  The County’s snow-water equivalent current stands at 22 percent of its 10-year average, and Thompson Reservoir is effectively dry, Mayer said.

Similarly, he noted that Drews Reservoir is markedly down from its 64,000 acre-feet capacity, currently holding at 10,000 acre-feet.  Last year, the reservoir contained 30,000 acre-feet of water, Mayer said.

While he did not have figures available for Cottonwood Reservoir, Mayer said that a cursory drive-by of the site revealed a visual confirmation that the reservoir is, for all intents and purposes, dry.

Area stream flows are also down from typical numbers, Mayer said, with Deep Creek reported at 30 cubic feet per second flow rate, which is a figure one-half of its normal rate.

At this stage, the late winter period for weather will play a major impact on local conditions, Mayer said, in light of the lack of moisture so far.

Lake County’s irrigation season typically starts on March 1, and at present the outlook is looking weak, Mayer said.

Commissioner Dan Shoun asked when a declaration of drought conditions should be submitted to the state governor’s office. Mayer said it should be submitted sooner rather than later, in terms of initiating the process.

Commissioner Ken Kestner noted that while it’s still relatively early in the year, the area is behind in needed precipitation.

“Even though it’s early, it’s going to take a miracle to catch up,” he said.

Mayer noted it’s not just the amount of precipitation but the type received that impacts area agriculture, such as hay growers.

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