It’s been an uphill battle for fish in the Deschutes River — their historic numbers have fallen due to the construction of dams and diversions that have disrupted their native habitat.
Mike Britton has seen his fair share of irrigation seasons. He has been in charge of North Unit Irrigation District since 2008, guiding water use on farms in Jefferson County, Central Oregon’s most productive farmland. But this year has been particularly challenging.
A changing climate, aging infrastructure and lack of sustained investment have resulted in stress on Oregon’s water systems, with communities of color disproportionately affected, according to a recent report by the Oregon Water Futures Project.
Havstad-Casad, a first-generation farmer, was highlighting concerns raised by others in Jefferson County, whose water allotments this year are so small that roughly half the county’s farmland is fallow.
Farmers across Oregon and California are making difficult decisions: tearing out acreage, replacing water-dependent crops with crops that can thrive on dryland and leaving land fallow.
An official declaration of drought, recognized by the governor, allows farmers to tap into state and federal financial assistance programs.
Drought, weak snowpack, and water rationing are creating challenges again for farmers in North Unit Irrigation District, which serves Jefferson County.
A stark red blotch on the U.S. Drought Monitor map spreads outward from the intersection of Klamath, Lake and Deschutes counties, marking the quarter of Oregon that’s experiencing “extreme” and “exceptional” drought.
Unseasonably warm temperatures and minimal precipitation this spring have left the landscape parched pretty much statewide, setting up what’s almost certain to be the worst drought in decades and perhaps a century.