May 02, 2001 11:00 pm

Water report shows

we need to conserve

Dont let the rain and snow of the past few days fool you. When it comes to water and energy, we still need to do all that we can to conserve. The situation is a little better than it was a couple of months ago, but were not going to get to a point this year that will cause our worries to subside or the costs of power generation to go down.

The final snow and water report of the water year shows that the Grande Ronde, Powder, Burnt and Imnaha basin is in better shape than most the rest of the state, with the basinwide snow water equivalent at 61 percent of average and total precipitation at 68 percent. But the numbers still arent good.

The numbers from Snotel measurement sites within the basin vary greatly. At Moss Springs, for example, the snow water equivalent is at 87 percent of average and precipitation at 78 percent. At Beaver Reservoir, the snow water equivalent is at 6 percent although the total precipitation is at 79 percent.

The water outlook is pretty well set, according to Mike Burton of the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Streamflow will be down and is not going to catch up, and irrigated crops will suffer, he said. Dryland crops will benefit from rainfall if its timely.

The services report doesnt provide the kind of information most of us want to hear. But it does provide fair warning to anyone who might think that concerns about the possibility of a drought are overblown.

The situation is going to be rough on farmers and anyone else who depends on water for their livelihood or recreation. Even city dwellers, whose water use is limited to the household, need to be cognizant of the regions water situation.

Dont let the rains fool you. Put simple conservation steps into practice. Turn off the faucet when you brush your teeth. Take shorter showers. Run the dishwasher and washer only when they are full. Cut your lawn higher this summer so it wont require as much water. Sweep instead of wash off the sidewalk and driveway.

Even if we get more rain in the next few weeks, the situation isnt going to change enough that we can disregard the need to conserve water. We all have to do our part.

Good news

Not everythings as gloomy as the weather and the water report. Joseph Timber reopened Monday after a 5-1/2 month shutdown. The reopening is the best news Wallowa County has had in a year a year that saw the countys unemployment rate soar to the highest in the state with closures at both the Wallowa and Joseph mills.

Putting 25 workers back on the job is only a first step in overcoming the countys economic doldrums. But it is a first step. And thats good news.