The Douglas County Board of Commissioners Wednesday declared a drought emergency.
The move came as a result of monitoring the water at the Galesville and Berry Creek Dams and conversations with the Douglas County watermaster, Douglas County Public Works Director Scott Adams told the commissioners.
“We’re already seeing end of June flows,” he said.
The move was not entirely unexpected. Watermaster Susan Douthit had suggested last week a drought declaration might be in the offing.
Precipitation was low overall last winter, and May was unusually dry, with .27 inches of rain, about 2 inches below normal. The snow pack in the Umpqua Basin is 26 percent of normal and stream flows are also low.
And it doesn’t look like water levels will see any improvement this summer. The National Weather Service in Medford reports Douglas County is expected to receive above-average temperatures and below-average rainfall over the summer months.
The county drought emergency was passed on a unanimous vote by the commissioners. It will next go to the governor’s office for an official drought declaration.
Douthit could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon, but the county issued a press release Thursday saying the county is the state's fifth to declare a drought order so far this summer. Lake, Klamath, Grant and Harney counties are all experiencing drought conditions.
"The Douglas County Board of Commissioners agreed that measures must be taken to alleviate stress to citizens and livestock, to protect or mitigate economic loss, and to be responsive to the threat of wildfires," Commissioner Chris Boice said in a written statement.
The drought declaration has not resulted in residential use restrictions, but the county is recommending water conservation and warning that fire danger is likely to be high this summer.
Once the governor declares a drought, the county will have more flexibility about how it can manage its limited water supplies.
The drought declaration follows on the heels of an announcement by the Douglas Forest Protective Association that fire season will begin Friday.
DFPA is anticipating a bad fire season, and the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center is predicting elevated fire risk in July.