September 11, 2019

The eight irrigation districts that serve Central Oregon and the City of Prineville have committed over a decade to working with local municipalities, state and federal agencies, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, and non-governmental organizations to improve our collective irrigation network in a way that better serves our community, conserves water, and improves fish and wildlife habitat.

Competing demands for water in the Deschutes Basin is a difficult issue that dozens of groups have spent years trying to solve. The solution to this issue is not a quick fix or something that can be done overnight.

The Deschutes Basin Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) represents the best way to ensure productive, long-term results, on a schedule intended to keep agriculture producers in our region solvent. The purpose of the HCP is not to solve all the water issues in the Deschutes Basin. Rather, conservation measures in the HCP are designed to minimize and mitigate impacts to species listed under the Endangered Species Act, where such impacts may result from the storage, release, diversion, and return of irrigation water by the Districts and City of Prineville. Our efforts have been inclusive and science-based, and we are committed to implementing long-term solutions that not only address the needs of listed species but also benefit our region’s farmers and communities.

By piping open irrigation canals, promoting on-farm conservation by patrons (piping private deliveries, converting to sprinklers), and entering temporary instream leases, we have the opportunity to conserve millions of gallons of water each year. These projects will allow for the continued increase in winter flows in the Upper Deschutes River, improving fish and wildlife habitat. 

Over the next five years, the districts are expected to pipe more than 400,000 feet of open canals across Central Oregon, to the tune of nearly 94 cubic feet per second in water savings.  These conservation initiatives will help the Districts and City of Prineville:

  • Increase water reliability for farmers and fish
  • Improve fish and wildlife habitat
  • Decrease energy costs
  • Reduce operation and maintenance costs
  • Achieve system-wide results in a short period of time

In addition to the HCP, several other initiatives are underway to improve the ecological health of the Upper Deschutes River, including a water marketing grant program and the formation of the Deschutes Basin Water Collaboration.  This consensus-based entity will include representatives from irrigation, instream, and municipal interests, and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, and will focus on addressing water imbalances in our basin.