North Santiam Drought Planning

Detroit Lake is a reservoir serving the North Santiam watershed. Photo credit: U.S. Forest Service

GSI developed a drought contingency plan for watershed that was approved by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) in the spring of 2018. Work included developing a drought monitoring framework to establish agreement about what local conditions indicate drought, and conducting a vulnerability assessment to identify the most susceptible resources in a drought. GSI also helped to establish mitigation actions to create resiliency to future droughts, and response measures that can be implemented in drought conditions. Finally, we helped establish an administrative framework to keep all actions moving forward, and an annual plan review process to incorporate improvements and new information over time.

The effort is in partnership with the Santiam Water Control District, North Santiam Watershed Council, City of Salem, and Marion County; and funded in part by USBR.

GSI’s work involved:

  • Developing a drought monitoring framework that gave stakeholders a tool to recognize and agree on drought stages. Higher drought stages trigger response actions for stakeholders to limit water use and share water.
  • Documenting mitigation actions that enable stakeholders to reduce risks and impacts even before a drought hits.
  • Providing a framework and tools for community outreach—a critical step for ensuring all stakeholders are aware of drought stages and water supply challenges, and for building credibility and support for the plan.
  • Providing grant writing support that resulted in successfully obtaining funding for both the drought contingency plan and subsequent watershed planning and public engagement efforts.


North Santiam Watershed, Oregon


  • Drought contingency planning
  • Stakeholder facilitation
  • Resiliency planning
  • Grant application support

USBR said of the plan: “The Review Team was very pleased with this plan and believes it will serve as a useful example for others as they develop their drought contingency plans.”

Photo Gallery

Map of the North Santiam watershed

Meeting of the drought mitigation work group.