History of the Deschutes River Conservancy


For thousands of years, the Deschutes River and its tributaries have supported life in Central Oregon. Over the past century, our communities have flourished while the health and vitality of our rivers have suffered. Rapid settlement and development led to over-appropriation of the Deschutes Basin, meaning there were more rights to divert water for irrigation than there was water in the rivers and stream at various times of the year.

In the early 1990s, a small group of dedicated individuals envisioned an organization unlike any other in Central Oregon. They imagined every stakeholder group in the Deschutes Basin—farming, recreation, ranching, conservation, logging, tribal communities and government—working successfully on market-based solutions to restore the Deschutes River. A few years later, the founders’ vision became a reality.

The Deschutes River Conservancy (DRC) is a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation founded in 1996 by the Environmental Defense, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation and local irrigation districts. Since then, we have built a strong foundation for collaborative work in the Deschutes Basin.

To date, the DRC’s programs have restored 200 cubic feet per second (cfs) to the Deschutes River and its tributaries—the equivalent of more than eight Olympic-size swimming pools pouring into these rivers every hour.

As a nationally recognized leader in river restoration, the DRC continues to attract those who share its founders’ belief that people can work together for the good of all river users.


Founding members of the Deschutes River Conservancy. From left to right: Ron Nelson (Central Oregon Irrigation District), Zach Willey (Environmental Defense Fund), Jim Noteboom (Karnopp Petersen), and Jim Manion (Confederated Tribes of the Warms Springs Reservation).