Ongoing drought triggers dry wells in Malheur County but help is available from state water agency

Rylee Buckley refills the buckets in her goat pen with water supplied by one of her neighbors.Buckley’s domestic well has been dry since May 30. Two domestic wells in Malheur County near Vale recently also dried up but residents can seek assistance from the Oregon Water Resources Department. (Klamath Falls Herald and News)

VALE – Two Vale area residential wells have gone dry while a third is nearly parched, and Rich Harriman, Malheur County Emergency Management director, wants to remind the public help is available from the state and the county.

If a well runs dry, residents could qualify for financial assistance under the state’s Water Well Abandonment, Repair, and Replacement Fund.

The program, overseen by the Oregon Water Resources Department, provides help to residents that certain requirements.

Homeowners are eligible if:

• Their household is low-to-moderate income.

• Their property is in an area recently impacted by wildfire or drought.

• They own and live at the impacted property.

• Their private well is a water supply well used for household purposes.

• No alternate source of water is available.

Harriman said homeowners should contact the Oregon Water Resources Department directly to apply or to report their well is dry. Residents can call the water department at 503-779-5763 or go online to https://www.oregon.gov/owrd/pages/index.aspx 

Residents can also contact Harriman at 541-473-5120 or 541-709-7726.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, Malheur County now faces either severe or extreme drought conditions.

Recent rainy weather did not help the alleviate local drought conditions, said Harriman.

Harriman said appearances after the recent rains can be deceiving.

“On one hand the rivers are flowing good, they look high and it looks like a typical irrigation year. It just happens with all of the moisture we have through the rainfall dwindles out and goes into the Snake and the Columbia and then the ocean and we are left with not much,” he said.

The county declared a drought emergency in April.

Area reservoirs remain low or nearly depleted. Area reservoir levels fluctuated through the spring but are now stable. The lowest reservoir level recorded last week was at Warm Springs reservoir, which was 13% full.

Beulah Reservoir was at 41%, Bully Creek was 50% and Owyhee Reservoir was at 42%.

The recent cooler and wetter climate has enhanced the area wildfire outlook, said Al Crouch, the fire mitigation/education specialist for the Vale District of the Bureau of Land Management.

Now, said Crouch, the Vale BLM district is either in a low or moderate fire danger category.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected].

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