“We’re just trying to survive for now”: Oregon’s agricultural sector hit hard by severe drought

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“We’re just trying to survive for now,” Flegel told The Oregonian / OregonLive, adding that the financial blow will likely be substantial. “Until that’s all said and done, we don’t know where we’re going to end up, but we could see a 40% decrease from what we normally project.”

Climate change has changed the dynamics in western states, with water shortages increasing the risk of wildfires and low river flows putting already endangered fish species at risk. Years like 2021, when there is simply not enough water for everyone, are expected to happen more frequently, experts say, and those who depend on dwindling resources, once taken for granted, will need to do so. facing a future where nothing is guaranteed.

Whenever resources are limited, the potential for conflict increases, and Oregon’s drought is no different. Earlier this year, two farmers bought land next to irrigation gates in Klamath Falls, in the heart of the state’s hardest hit region. With ties to far-right groups, farmers threatened to release water themselves after the federal government said there was not enough for irrigation.

CLIMATE CHANGE IS STRAINING SUPPLY AND DEMAND

In Oregon, water generally comes in two forms: rain and snow.

The western regions of the state, the coast and the Willamette Valley, depend on abundant rainfall to meet their water needs. The Cascades, which run like a backbone through the middle of the state, keep most of that rain from reaching the high desert east of the mountains.

But the summits of the Cascades collect this moisture in the snow coats, which serve as frozen reservoirs, slowly distributing this essential water throughout spring and summer thanks to the snowmelt. In the Columbia River Basin, snowmelt accounts for about a quarter of the water available for irrigation.


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