By the middle of June, Governor Kate Brown had already issued drought declarations for several counties—Baker, Douglas, Grant, Harney, Klamath, and Lake. By the 10th of July, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, almost the entire state of Oregon was abnormally dry or in some degree of drought, with only the very northeastern part of the state spared.
Official drought declarations give water right holders access to emergency water management tools, including expedited temporary transfers of water from place to place, access to emergency water use permits—often substituting groundwater use for unavailable surface water, special option agreements between water users, and temporary exchanges or substitutions providing flexible management of various water rights. Officially-declared droughts can also provide opportunities for financial assistance from state and federal agencies. Management tools and money can help cushion water users from the full impact of drought, but they only go so far. They can't make it rain, and they certainly can't turn the clock backwards and build up last winter's snowpack.
It is very possible that more drought declarations will issue before the winter rains come to our rescue. Besides taking a toll on the state's important agricultural and natural resource economic sectors, high temperatures and dry conditions create dangerous fire conditions and strain municipal water supplies. This summer is already setting up to be a scorcher.