The Deschutes Basin Board of Control (DBBC) has prepared a document addressing recent statements and questions related to the Habitat Conservation Plan and other conservation initiatives.
Some have alleged that irrigators want the public to be distracted by what they term a false dichotomy of "frogs versus farmers," when instead, in their view, the "real" choice is a healthy river system and efficient irrigators versus waste. This point of view relies on the asserted premise that there is currently enough water in the system to take care of the needs of both the species and “efficient irrigators” if Central Oregon Irrigation District (COID) would just stop wasting water and allow water sharing.
The premise for this viewpoint is seriously flawed. First, it assumes that COID patrons are wasting water. This is false. While the technology around water use will always improve over time, just because a landowner has not purchased and implemented the latest state-of-the-art technology, it doesn't mean that they are wasting water. They're still putting water to beneficial use, just as they've done for the last 100 years.
Second, the viewpoint is flawed because it assumes COID is responsible for its patrons' water use efficiency, and that COID can somehow force its patrons to become more efficient. State law doesn't give irrigation districts the authority to do this. At the same time, however, state law does enable COID to make its overall delivery system more efficient.
Third, the viewpoint is flawed because it assumes there is currently enough water in the system for COID, North Unit Irrigation District (NUID), and fish and wildlife. There's simply not, without large scale piping projects by the districts, which can be combined with voluntary efforts by landowners who undertake on-farm improvements.
And finally, the viewpoint incorrectly assumes COID is not allowing sharing. That's also false. COID currently delivers an average of 20 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water (conserved by COID through previous piping projects) through the Pilot Butte Canal and to the North Unit Main Canal.
COID is currently working with the Deschutes River Conservancy, Summit Conservation, and AMP Insights on a water marketing program. The pilot project would allow water right sharing between water users. The goal of the pilot project is an additional 5 cfs during the 2020 irrigation season, with a total goal of delivering 50 cfs through water sharing and on-farm programs. The program, which is expected to launch in 2020, is being funded through a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation WaterSmart grant.
Critics allege the irrigation district conservation plans are flawed in relying on “expensive big piping” to reduce water use when “far cheaper approaches” are available such as piping private ditches, eliminating flood irrigation, and offering incentives to use less water.
The districts are employing a variety of conservation tools including: