After the Lake County Commissioners submitted a request on Tuesday, April 5 to declare a drought emergency in Lake County, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed Executive Order 22-07 on Tuesday, April 25 declaring a drought emergency in Lake, Deschutes, Grant and Malheur counties.
With the addition of the four counties, Brown has signed Executive Orders declaring a drought emergency in 11 Oregon counties. The others are Crook, Gilliam, Harney, Jackson, Jefferson, Klamath and Morrow counties.
The emergency drought declarations come after one of the driest winters to hit eastern Oregon, with many places in southern Oregon — like Klamath and Lake counties — going for long stretches during the winter months without seeing normal precipitation. The lack of moisture during the winter led to a smaller than normal snowpack in the mountains, which is leading to less water in local reservoirs, less water in streams and less water recharging aquifers.
The drier than normal winter followed a dry and hot summer where much of southern and eastern Oregon was facing extreme to exceptional drought conditions. Lake County was persistently in extreme and exceptional drought through most of the summer heading into the fall and winter.
The recent snow showers across Lake County and other areas of the region have helped add some water to local reservoirs, but has done little to alleviate the overall drought situation. According to drought.gov in the most recent update, the vast majority of eastern and central Oregon are still experiencing extreme and exceptional drought conditions. All of Crook County is experiencing exceptional drought conditions — the most intense drought level.
In the summer of 2021, there were reports of wells running dry in portions of Klamath and Harney counties. There were no reports of wells running dry in Lake County in the summer of 2021. Right now 75% of Lake County is experiencing extreme drought and 42% is experiencing exceptional drought.
Borwn’s signing of the Executive Order will help bring additional resources to support farmers, ranchers and individuals with drilling emergency wells, moving water rights, and applying for state and federal aid. Brown is ordering state agencies to work together on helping those who need assistance and coordinating with local communities.