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Drought Watch

Drought Declaration in Lake and Malheur Counties
The Governor declared a drought in Lake and Malheur counties on March 16, 2015. 
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Current Conditions in Oregon

March 25, 2015 Drought Update (v1.0)

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State Drought Declaration Process


The legal framework for drought mitigation can be found in Oregon Law, ORS 536.700 - 536.780 relating to drought emergencies and administrative rules, OAR Chapter 690, Division 19.
Under this legal framework, the Governor has the authority and sole discretion to declare a drought emergency in any geographical area within the state that is appropriate. County boundaries are generally used because of the obvious benefits of working with a recognized local government.
Counties first make their drought declarations and then ask for a state declaration.  County governments should start the process by working with their Emergency Action Coordinator.
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Federal Drought Declaration Process

There is a seperate process for agricultural interests at the federal level.  Information on the federal resources can be found on the USDA Drought and Disaster Assistance site.
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Water Resources Department Assistance after Governor's Declaration of Drought

Water Resources has three primary mechanisms to help individuals and communities cope with drought:
     •  Emergency Water Use Permits
     •  Temporary Transfers of Water Rights
     •  Use of Existing Right Option/Agreement
Click here for more information.

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Drought Mitigation Tools


The Water Resources Department may exercise emergency water rights authority following a
Governor’s drought declaration as follows:
a. Issue temporary emergency permits under an expedited process. The drought permits
are limited to replacement of water not available under a permanent water right. They
are effective for the duration of the drought declaration, or up to one year, whichever comes first, unless renewed (ORS 536.750(1)(a) and OAR 690-019-0040);
b. Issue temporary transfers, authorizing changes in type of use, place of use, or point of
diversion of an existing water right, including “split season” transfers. They are effective for the duration of the drought declaration, or up to one year, whichever comes first, unless renewed (ORS 536.750(1)(b) and OAR 690-019-0055);
c. Issue temporary instream leases to convert all or a portion of a water right to an instream lease. They are effective for the duration of the drought declaration, or up to one year, whichever comes first, unless renewed (ORS 536.750(1)(b) and OAR 690-019-0058);
d. Approve special option agreements during drought emergencies. Water used under the terms of an approved option or agreement may be used at locations, points of diversion, and for beneficial uses other than those described in the water right (ORS 536.770 and OAR 690-019-0080);
e. Authorize temporary substitution of a supplemental ground water right for a primary surface water right. They are effective for the duration of the drought declaration, or up to one year, whichever comes first, unless renewed. (ORS 536.750(1)(f) and OAR 690- 019-0059);
f. Authorize temporary exchange of the source of water allowed under a water right, such as moving from a direct flow right to a stored water source (ORS 536.750(1)(e); and
g. Grant preference of use to water rights for human consumption or livestock (ORS 536.750(1)(c) and OAR 690-019-0070).
All of these emergency actions involve a review process that includes an abbreviated public interest determination and a test for injury to existing water rights. There is a specific set of reduced fees for many of these transactions under OAR 690-019-0100.
Dwight French (503) 986-0819 – Water Right Permits
Laura Wilke (503) 986-0884 – Instream Leases
Tom Paul (503) 986-0882- Special Options and Human/Livestock Preferences
Keith Mills (503) 986-0840 – General Drought Information
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Water Conservation

We can all do our part to lessen the effects of limited water supplies this summer. We can start by conserving the water we use today. Check out the links below for information on how you can save water.
     •  Residential Water Users
     •  Municipal Water Users
     •  Agricultural Water Users
     •  Commercial/Industrial Water Users
The Department has updated our brochures for water conservation and updated and expanded the model water curtailment ordinance. Use and reproduction of these materials is free.
(PDF 249 KB)
(PDF 298 KB)
(PDF 390 KB)

Model Water Curtailment Measures for Municipal and Quasi-Municipal Water Utilities (PDF 144 KB) 
Conservation Share House


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Water Availability Committee of Oregon

The State Water Availability Committee met on February 12, 2014, convened by the Department. This Committee analyzed precipitation, snowpack, streamflow and reservoir conditions across the state.  The committee recommended that the Governor declare drought in four counties -- Harney, Klamath, Lake and Malheur -- in response to requests from these counties.  The committee will continue to meet throughout 2014.

Other members of the Water Availability Committee include the, snow survey section of the Natural Resource Conservation Service, National Weather Service, Oregon Department of Forestry, U.S. Geological Survey, Northwest River Forecast Center, US Geological Survey, and the Oregon Climate Service.  The Water Availability Committee is responsible for assessing water availability conditions and making recommendations for consideration by the Drought Council. 

The Drought Council, chaired by Oregon Emergency Management, will meet right after the Water Availability Committee. Its members represent many state and federal agencies.  The Drought Council is responsible for assessing the impact of drought conditions and making recommendations for response, policy, and mitigation to the Governor´s office. more

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Water Rights Application Forms

Drought Permit Application Forms

Groundwater Application                                         
Surface Water Application  
Temporary Drought Transfer or Substitution Forms

Transfer Application Form
Evidence of Use Affidavit  
Land Use Form
Drought Instream Leases

Temporary Drought Instream Leases
Temporary District Drought Instream Leases  
Temporary District Instream Lease Renewal Form
​Temporary Drought Split Season
​Temporary Drought Split Season Measurement Form ​[DOC 84 KB]
Schedule of Fees for Drought Applications        [PDF 12 KB] 

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Statutes, Rules, Regulations and Initiatives

Click here for detailed information about rules and initiatives related to drought.

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Users are invited to send questions about the use of this website, and suggestions for making it more useful, to webmaster@wrd.state.or.us

Contact Your Local Watermaster 
for More Information:
Watermasters in Oregon

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