New Water Management Program Will Ease Water Shortages for Junior Irrigators and Rivers

This article was published on: 12/17/21 7:21 PM

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – DECEMBER 17, 2021

CONTACT:
Kate Fitzpatrick, Executive Director
Deschutes River Conservancy
541.382.4077 x 118
kate@deschutesriver.org

Deschutes River Conservancy and Irrigation Districts Launch Voluntary Deschutes Water Bank Pilot Program

BEND, ORE – The Deschutes River Conservancy (DRC), in partnership with Central Oregon Irrigation District and North Unit Irrigation District, is launching the 2022 Deschutes Water Bank Pilot Program. The program is a local, flexible, and voluntary water management tool, which allows for the easier movement of water to meet farmer and river needs in times of scarcity.

The Deschutes Water Bank Pilot Program provides an opportunity for senior irrigation patrons who are interested in helping junior irrigators facing scarcity by receiving a cash payment for volunteering to forego using their irrigation water for the 2022 season. The water will be made available to North Unit Irrigation District during the irrigation season and will help to restore winter flows in the Upper Deschutes River. This program is complimentary and in addition to the DRC’s well-established instream lease program, which compensates water users to lease their water directly instream.

Partners in the Deschutes Basin have been working together for decades to solve long-standing water management inequities. Aggressive water conservation projects are underway and are a foundational part of the solution. This Water Bank Pilot Program brings market-based tools alongside water conservation efforts to increase the pace and scale of solutions that fix our rivers while keeping farmers whole.

The Deschutes River has persistent flow restoration needs based on the overallocation of the river over 100 years ago. As the most junior irrigation district, North Unit Irrigation District faces water insecurity and suffered severe shortages and economic consequences in 2021 due to extreme drought. The Water Bank Pilot Program offers a triple benefit—flexibility and incentive payments for senior water users, increased water supply for North Unit Irrigation District and restored flows in the river. The aim is to build on this pilot program to establish a basin-wide water bank that facilitates and scales these win-win solutions. Increasing demand for water and climate change necessitates adaptive, flexible, and locally driven solutions to meet the water management challenges of the future.

Craig Horrell, Central Oregon Irrigation District Manager said, “We’re excited to offer this program for patrons who are interested in helping farmers in North Unit and the river. This complements our water conservation work and is another tool we can use in our efforts to find basin-wide solutions to water issues.”

Kate Fitzpatrick, Executive Director of the Deschutes River Conservancy said, “This pilot program is designed to provide benefits to all involved and illustrates the kind of flexible locally driven solutions that will be necessary to meet water needs and restore our rivers into the future. We are thrilled to partner with NUID and COID on such an innovative program—it’s been a long-time coming.”

Mike Britton, North Unit Irrigation Executive Manager said, “This pilot program is a great example of how potentially conflicting water interests can work together in powerful ways. NUID will be able to reasonably purchase critically needed irrigation water from COID to help keep our commercial farmers viable during ongoing drought. We will in turn be releasing a portion of this pilot water in the Upper Deschutes the following winter.

Raising flows in the Upper Deschutes River is a requirement of the Deschutes Basin Habitat Conservation Plan and NUID’s contribution to winter flows will help meet these requirements.

Irrigation patrons interested in getting more information on this program are encouraged to visit www.deschuteswaterbank.org to complete an online questionnaire. Interested parties will be contacted to see if they are eligible for the program.

 The Deschutes River Conservancy (DRC) formed 25 years ago with a mission to restore streamflow and improve water quality in the Deschutes River Basin. The DRC has a multi-stakeholder board and through collaborative efforts has restored up to 208 cfs (equivalent to 93,357 gallons per minute) of flow in the basin with non-litigious, voluntary, and market-based programs. For more information about the DRC visit www.deschutesriver.org.

About Central Oregon Irrigation District: Established in 1918, Central Oregon Irrigation District “COID” is a Municipal Corporation of the State of Oregon. The district’s mission is to provide a reliable supply of water to 3,500 patrons throughout Bend, Redmond, Powell Butte, and Alfalfa. COID operates and maintains over 400 miles of canals that collectively deliver water to approximately 46,222 acres of productive land. www.coid.org

North Unit Irrigation District plays an invaluable role in conveying irrigation water to nearly 60,000 irrigated acres of productive farmland in Central Oregon. As Oregon’s second-largest irrigation district, North Unit is a state and regional economic powerhouse. The District has served the agricultural water needs of Jefferson County and the surrounding community, since 1945. It was formed in 1913, with the sole purpose of delivering agricultural water and remains the largest irrigation district in Central Oregon today. www.northunit.com

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