MEDFORD — Southern Oregon and Northern California are currently in severe to extreme drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Now people working in agriculture are becoming concerned about the availability of water through late summer and early fall.
There is cause for concern, since Carol Bradford, manager at the Medford Irrigation District said it’s the worst water year she’s seen in their history.
“We’re just really hurting,” Bradford said.
Over at Roxy Ann Winery, the grapes are fine, at least for now.
“This is great weather for grapes right now,” said John Quinones, who makes wine at Roxy Ann Winery.
However, due to the severe drought conditions, Quinones said he’s looking ahead to the end of what’s expected to be a hot, dry summer.
“Our biggest concern really is when they shut the water off,” Quinones said. “As we get into mid-October, we’re in a ripening stage then and we definitely need the water there.”
The problem is, irrigation water might not last that long. Both Bradford, with the Medford Irrigation District; and Jim Pendleton, with the Talent Irrigation District; said they’re expecting to have a shortened year. They said the water will potentially get shut off by mid-September. Both Medford and Talent have delayed pumping water until the beginning of this month. Typically irrigation lasts from April through October.
“Our needs aren’t great, but they’re constant,” Quinones said.
There’s also concern at Meyer Orchards in Talent. Ron Meyer, the owner of a pear and peach orchard said if his fruit doesn’t get enough water, it will grow small and it will be harder to sell.
“Smaller sized fruit is usually discounted or not even wanted at all,” Meyer said.
In addition, if the summer months bring a string of hot days, it could mean an even earlier water shut-off date in August.
“It would damage crops severely,” Meyer said.
Not only would the water shortage damage crops, but it would also damage the livelihood that Meyer says he’s built over the last 60 years.
“We could lose the farm if it gets bad enough,” said Meyer.
Added to the already bad drought conditions, the Medford and Talent irrigation districts are required to funnel water into Bear Creek to supplement the stream. That diverted water adds to the pinch, and it’s extra water farmers ultimately can’t use.
Bradford said people who use water from the Medford Irrigation District should try to use 25 percent or less than they did last year to conserve.
What happens now with water availability depends on the weather.