Irrigation Districts Prepare For Water Curtailments

Redmond, Ore – July 5, 2023 – Despite experiencing heavy rainfall and a series of spring storms, the majority of Deschutes and Crook counties remain entrenched in a state of severe drought, according to the U.S. drought monitor. Consequently, the Deschutes Basin irrigation districts are preparing for the need to curtail water as early as mid-July due to the dwindling natural flow in the Deschutes River.

Jeremy Giffin, Deschutes Basin Watermaster for the Oregon Water Resources Department, highlighted the significance of the situation, stating, “While recent rainfall has provided some relief, the long-term recovery requires several years of above-average precipitation. Unfortunately, the snowpack we achieved during the winter is not resulting in a significant snowmelt runoff translating to live flow.”

Snowmelt from accumulated snowpack is an important source of water for farmers.

“Districts relying solely on live flow are expected to experience water shortages, while those utilizing stored water will need to rely on these supplies,” said Craig Horrell, President of the Deschutes Basin Board of Control. “Ultimately, this means reduced water availability for district patrons, as well as impacts on fish and wildlife.”

The irrigation districts are closely monitoring the situation, with Arnold, Tumalo, Central Oregon, and Lone Pine irrigation district’s adjusting flows due to the declining natural flow in the Deschutes River.

In light of these developments, the districts strongly advise irrigators to proactively plan for potential water supply shortages during the summer months.

Addressing the challenging circumstances faced by the community, Horrell emphasized the irrigation districts’ commitment to implementing long-term solutions. “The frequency and intensity of these drought events pose extraordinary difficulties for farmers, fish, wildlife, and community members,” he stated. “We continue to focus on replacing leaky, open canals with closed pipes, allowing water saved from seepage below and evaporation above to support agricultural needs and contribute to the preservation of our river and wildlife.”

The Deschutes Basin Board of Control urges patrons to stay informed about the evolving situation and remain proactive in implementing water conservation measures.

The Deschutes Basin Board of Control comprises eight irrigation districts, namely Arnold, Central Oregon, Lone Pine, North Unit, Ochoco, Swalley, Three Sisters, and Tumalo. Together, these districts provide water to over 7,600 farms and ranches, as well as local cities, parks, and schools.

For more information and updates, please visit www.dbbcirrigation.com


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Arnold Irrigation District

As one of Oregon’s oldest irrigation districts, AID has long embraced water conservation. The District has repaired leaks in an historic metal flume, lined 1.5 miles of its main canal and laterals, piped 5.5 miles of laterals, and even eliminated 4.5 miles of old laterals. Diligent water monitoring at turnouts has provided the largest contribution to conservation. AID has reduced its average rate of diversion by approximately 25 cfs since 1997. The District was one of the first to participate in the State’s instream leasing program, and for the past decade has leased roughly 2 cfs into the Deschutes River to benefit fish and wildlife.

  • Established 1900



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Hydropower Generation

A new trend among irrigation districts is the construction of small hydropower facilities inside their existing irrigation systems. Renewable energy generated by rushing water is one of the earliest innovations of irrigation use, but it is becoming economically feasible for even small districts to employ this innovative technique and produce clean electricity.

Swalley Irrigation District has implemented a signature water conservation and hydropower project. In conjunction with piping 5 miles of its main canal, the District constructed a small in-conduit hydroelectric plant capable of producing enough clean, renewable electricity to power up to 350 homes.

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Water Conservation

Irrigation canals dug over a century ago out of the hard, black basalt throughout Central Oregon still function as reliable, Low-maintenance conveyance facilities. But they’re also prone to seepage. To conserve water, the Districts are working with the Deschutes River Conservancy and other partners to line their canals or even replace them with Large plastic or steel pipes. These conservation initiatives are a catalyst for higher instream flows beneficial for fish, wildlife and recreation, and creates opportunities for renewable hydropower development.

North Unit Irrigation District is undertaking the largest streamflow restoration initiative in Oregon’s histroy. When this project is complete, up to 220 cubic feet per second of water will be restored to the Crooked River, north of Smith Rock State Park.

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