Gov. John Kitzhaber has declared a drought emergency in Jackson County.

Gov. John Kitzhaber has declared a drought emergency in Jackson County.

Jackson County commissioners requested the emergency declaration this spring, and the State Drought Council considered the county's request by weighing current water conditions, future climatic forecasts, and agricultural impacts, a news release from the governor's office said today.

The declaration enables the State Water Resources Department to prioritize the use of water rights for human consumption and livestock and take other steps, including temporarily transferring water rights and authorizing use of supplemental groundwater.

The governor, who made the declaration Tuesday, said in a prepared statement today that as historic drought conditions continue in Southern Oregon, Jackson County is the latest to be threatened with water shortages and low streamflows later this year.

His statement said officials at local, state, and federal levels are working together to reduce threats to agriculture, recreation, and natural resources in the county.

The governor's declaration follows announcements from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that it has designated six Oregon counties as natural disaster areas due to drought. In two separate letters, including one delivered today, Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that farmers in Jackson, Klamath, Lake, Malheur, Harney and Lane counties and in contiguous counties are eligible for assistance, including emergency loans, from the Farm Service Agency.