As heat continues, experts warn of potential water woes this summer

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It’s hot, it’s dry -- nearly all counties in Oregon and Washington are currently experiencing drought, and experts say it’s likely going to continue through the end of summer.

Drought is concerning for water utilities around the Pacific Northwest.

In Camas this week, city officials announced voluntary watering restrictions. Utilities Manager Sam Adams says customers have used about three times the amount of water this summer than they normally would the rest of the year. Much of that, he says, comes from customers using water outside.

“We've been doing it the past couple years. The temperatures we're noticing, I've noticed, have been a lot hotter and longer stretches,” Adams said.

They are asking that customers water their lawns every other day this summer. People who live at even numbered addresses should water on even days of the month. If you have an odd numbered address, you should water on odd days.

The voluntary restrictions will be in effect through the end of September. Adams says he is confident there is no water shortage, but they are trying to proactively manage what they have.

“Water is a precious resource, there is only so much of it. Our infrastructure right now can handle the demand, but as we see these high demands come online, we always get a little concerned. It's really a way to try and level things off in this hot season,” Adams said.

Oregon’s Water Resources Department has several tips on how to conserve water in and around your home.

Kathie Dello, Associate Director of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute, says this summer has been rough and she expects the hot, dry conditions to continue.

“We're only in July. Portland hit 100 degrees before Houston, Texas this summer. The next few months look to be hot and dry as well. Our wildfire season started early. It doesn’t look to be good,” said Dello. “We would certainly like to see some rain happen over the next few months, but it doesn't look like these hot temperatures are going away.”

According to the U.S. drought monitor, more than 90 percent of Oregon and Washington have dry or drought conditions. Dello says they haven’t seen drought this widespread since 2015.

While it’s hot and dry now, and has been for the past few months, the summer water woes started with a paltry snowpack during the winter.

“We didn't have a great snowpack up in the mountains, and we really rely on that in some areas for our summer water supply. Sometimes we can get by with low snow if we get spring rain, but we had this really dry May and the past two months have been dry as well,” Dello said.

She expects small communities that rely on well water to feel the stresses as this summer moves on. Some coastal communities, which rely on rain for their water, may also have a rough summer.

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