This article was published on: 07/20/22 1:58 PM
Did you know that permanently protecting flows in Oregon’s rivers wasn’t always possible? Today is the 35th anniversary of Oregon’s Instream Water Act. Thanks to this forward-thinking act, Oregon has become a leader in voluntary streamflow restoration.
The Instream Water Act is at the heart of our work at the Deschutes River Conservancy. Since 1996, we have worked collaboratively with our partners to protect over 208 cubic feet per second in Central Oregon’s rivers and streams. That’s the equivalent of more than 8.5 Olympic-sized swimming pools staying instream every hour!
We’ve come a long way, but we still have more work to do. Nearly 90% of the streamflow from the Deschutes River in Bend is diverted through irrigation canals during the irrigation season (April – October). Flows in the Upper Deschutes, Middle Deschutes, Crooked River, and other tributaries still need to increase to support the health of the river and all who depend on it.
Since 86% of the water used in the basin goes to irrigation districts, working closely with our district partners offers the largest opportunity to conserve water. As irrigation efficiency increases, so does the opportunity to protect flows instream as well as address water equity issues in the basin.
We are living through the third consecutive year of exceptional drought here in the Deschutes Basin, and to become more resilient to the effects of climate change, we need to work together to do more with less.
Thirty-five years ago, the State of Oregon decided to give rivers a voice. We hope you’ll join us in continuing our work to restore streamflow and improve water quality in the Deschutes River Basin.