Owyhee Dam

The Owyhee Dam and reservoir near Adrian, Ore. The district manager says less irrigation water has been used this summer compared to the average year.

Demand for Owyhee Irrigation District water deliveries to farms could stay below average for the rest of the crop season.

“We are just not hitting those peak demands,” General Manager Jay Chamberlin said July 26. Owyhee Reservoir is 87 to 88% full compared to the typical 50 to 60% full for this time of year.

The Nyssa, Ore., district usually sees demand rise and stabilize by early summer.

“We really haven’t seen, this whole season — until the last 10 days or so — peak, high demand,” Chamberlin said.

A wet spring delayed planting of some crops by two to three weeks in some locations, though farmers working in light soils could plant earlier, he said. As the growing season progressed, above-average rain and below-average temperatures slowed some crops’ progress. Even the region’s typically warm nights and early mornings have been cooler.

“You have a combination of different maturity levels of crops,” Chamberlin said.

Usually through summer, demand “stacks” as different crops all receive water at once, he said. This year, “crops are so spread out, (farmers) have been able to rotate water around” — an approach that reduces total volume delivered.

“We are just not hitting those peak demands,” Chamberlin said.

“The big picture is that the onion growers I have been talking to are hoping for a good, warm, late fall,” he said. “They need it for onions to mature.”

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