Editorial: Water conservation important as demand goes up

Nov 27, 2015

Bend Bulletin

Editorial: Water conservation important as demand goes up Oregon’s going to need to use the water it has better in the future. A state report predicts state water demand is going to go up by at least 10 percent by 2050. That makes conserving water for agricultural uses even more important. It means more canal piping and more conservation practices on farms.

The Oregon Water Resources Department last did a water demand forecast in 2008. It did one again this year. Staff plugged in different assumptions to predict future water use.

It’s a guessing game, and nobody is trying to hide that. Population estimates could be off. Climate assumptions could be off. So we are not saying the 10 percent prediction is going to be right. Neither does the department.

Nevertheless, it seems logical to expect water demand to increase over time. And the challenge for the state is to ensure the water is there to meet the demand.

There are things Oregonians can do to help. They can be more careful about conserving water. More lawns can be replaced by xeriscaping. People can be more disciplined about luxuriating in the shower.

In the Deschutes Basin, more flexibility is likely needed in how water from reservoirs may be used. That will require change in laws and regulation at the federal level. There’s a state and federal study underway to figure out the best options.

But there should also be changes by irrigation districts and on farms. Canals should be piped so that water gets where it is intended. Some districts don’t have the ability to match flows through the canals with actual daily needs of farmers. It’s basically all on or all off. Some farmers still use flood irrigation when drip irrigation would be more efficient.

Those things all cost money. They also come with controversy. Who pays? People who live next to open canals understandably feel a loss when they get a lump of pipe replacing a flowing canal.

But Oregonians should tell their state and local policymakers they support piping canals and conservation projects.

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