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Precipitation and temperature are the main drivers of drought. They largely determine snowpack, soil moisture, and streamflow levels, which are commonly used as indicators of drought. In Oregon, many watersheds depend heavily on snowpack for their annual water supply, and the timing of peak runoff from snowmelt is critical. In the case of severe or multi-year droughts, soil moisture does not recover in time for the next growing season. Groundwater levels do not rebound and refilling above-ground reservoirs can also prove difficult. All of these factors set the stage for forest fires, fewer crops, poor grazing conditions, decreased streamflows and habitat for fish, impaired water quality, and scarce supplies. Because droughts are a slow-moving disaster where impacts develop over time, persisting even after the rain and snow returns, building drought resiliency in Oregon will require a portfolio of water management methods that are put into place long before the next drought arrives.
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