Finding Opportunity For Conservation in How We Use Water

This year, water is top of mind.

With drought declarations throughout the Western United States, communities are working to better manage a limited supply of water. Through regulatory and voluntary measures, many are finding ways to do more with less.

Here in the Deschutes Basin, our situation is serious, but not as grim as it is in some places. We benefit from a combination of water supplies. Groundwater, snowpack, and stored flows from reservoirs all contribute to our rivers and streams.

In dry years like this one, where snowpack was far below normal, groundwater and reservoirs temper the effects of the drought.
When a drought extends for more than one year, though, it impacts even these sources. If the low snowpack continues for another winter, the situation in the Deschutes Basin could become very serious.

The flow issues in the upper Deschutes River, the lower Crooked River, Whychus and Tumalo Creeks are complex. In many regards, the area’s economy was originally based upon water usage practices that were established long before we fully understood the natural limitations of the watershed.
We now have a better understanding of those limitations, and we’ve made progress to protect flows instream.

The next phase of restoration work will be on a much larger scale, requiring basin-wide changes in water management.

This summer marks the start of a multi-year, basin-wide study leading to a comprehensive plan for the sustainable management of the water that’s vital for our farms, rivers and cities.

We’re confident there will be enough water for everyone’s needs provided that we’re willing to manage these resources differently.

For example, commercial and non-commercial irrigators are the largest water users in the basin and have already contributed the most to restoring streamflows. They also have the greatest opportunity to continue to do so.

Increasing irrigation efficiency and optimizing water delivery systems could produce the water needed to restore needed flows to the Deschutes River.
Making these changes will take time and money and should not be the sole responsibility of the irrigation community. Healthy rivers are the responsibility of our entire region, and they are the legacy we leave behind.

The Basin Study Work Group, of which DRC is an active member, brings together all groups with an interest in the river –
communities, agriculture, tribes, recreation interests and more. Combined with DRC’s partner supported flow restoration projects and changes in water management, a solution to meet the needs of the basin is becoming clearer.

This work is our primary focus for the coming years, and we encourage your support of this mission for the future. For example, commercial and non-commercial irrigators are the largest water users in the basin and have already contributed the most to restoring streamflows. They also have the greatest opportunity to continue to do so.

Increasing irrigation efficiency and optimizing water delivery systems could produce the water needed to restore needed flows to the Deschutes River.
Making these changes will take time and money and should not be the sole responsibility of the irrigation community. Healthy rivers are the responsibility of our entire region, and they are the legacy we leave behind.

The Basin Study Work Group, of which DRC is an active member, brings together all groups with an interest in the river –
communities, agriculture, tribes, recreation interests and more. Combined with DRC’s partner supported flow restoration projects and changes in water management, a solution to meet the needs of the basin is becoming clearer.

This work is our primary focus for the coming years, and we encourage your support of this mission for the future.