Drought Continues To Challenge Owyhee Valley Farmers

Jul 27, 2015

Southwest Idaho stands out in bright red on the most recent drought map. The color signifies the area is in extreme drought. Jay Chamberlin of the Owyhee Irrigation District says that's not surprising, given the lack of snowpack last winter.

Lake Owyhee in eastern Oregon.
Credit Don Barrett / Flickr Creative Commons

But Chamberlin says now, the water supply from Owyhee Reservoir – which serves farmers in Eastern Oregon and some in Idaho – is almost all gone.

"They're desperate," says Chamberlin. "This is the third consecutive season of reduced water to these growers. They're trying to grow crops that don't require as much water, but the cashflow or return is much lower on some of those crops."

Chamberlin says a normal irrigation season goes until October 15. But this year is an improvement over last, when irrigation was already being cut off in late July.

"We've had some timely rains off and on, they're a little bit spotty but actually they've helped the growers a little bit and hurt them in others."

Chamberlin says there's about two to three weeks of water left in the Owyhee system.

Find Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill

Copyright 2015 Boise State Public Radio