Streamflow Issues in the Deschutes Basin

Settlers arriving in Central Oregon in the late 1800s and early 1900s were enticed by the abundant rivers and other natural resources in the region. Before long, however, virtually all of the Deschutes River was diverted for the growing number of families, livestock and agriculture. Unfortunately, the early settlers in this region did not consider the ecological consequences of such actions. Today, local irrigators are aware of the serious problems caused by seasonal variation in river levels, and are partnering with the DRC to create viable solutions.

The historic seasonal disruptions of streamflow in the Deschutes River and its tributaries have contributed to a decline in the overall health of the rivers including degraded habitat for fish and wildlife and poor water quality.


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Streamflow in the Upper Deschutes drops dramatically in the winter, negatively impacting local fish populations, and creating erosion problems.

 

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The Middle Deschutes historically suffered from low streamflow during the summer irrigation months. Collaborative work with stakeholders to restore water back to the river has allowed the Middle Deschutes to maintain healthy streamflows throughout the year.

 

 

 

Water Use in the
Deschutes Basin

 

Water for Storage

In the winter, water is stored in the reservoirs for the irrigation season. This seasonal reservoir storage significantly reduces the streamflow in the Upper Deschutes River, defined as the reach from Wickiup Reservoir to Bend. 

Water for Irrigation

Nearly 90% of the streamflow from the Deschutes River in Bend is diverted through irrigation canals during the irrigation season. The diversions cause a dramatic reduction of streamflow in the Middle Deschutes, defined as the reach between Bend and Lake Billy Chinook. 

Water for Recreation

Thousands of people visit the Lower Deschutes River each year to enjoy its world class fishing, exhilarating whitewater, and spectacular landscape. Many of them are unaware of the issues facing the Upper and Middle reaches of the river.