Deschutes River Conservancy to facilitate projects to reduce water demands and restore flows in the Upper Deschutes River
Photo: Jess Kraft
CAPTION: Increased water equity among farmers will allow for better balance in the basin and healthier flows in the Deschutes River and its tributaries.
BEND, OR, April 30, 2021— The Deschutes River Conservancy will be awarded $2.6 million to implement water conservation projects within Central Oregon Irrigation District to reduce water demands and restore flows in the Upper Deschutes River. This award is part of an investment by the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) of $330 million in 85 locally driven, public-private partnerships to address climate change, improve the nation’s water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat and protect agricultural viability. Projects are awarded through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).
The Smith Rock Irrigation Modernization and Conservation Project, a partnership between the Deschutes River Conservancy (DRC), Central Oregon Irrigation District (COID), NRCS and the Deschutes County Soil and Water Conservation District (DCSWCD), will implement a suite of conservation projects that will increase water savings for senior irrigators, improve reliability for junior irrigators, and improve winter flows in the Upper Deschutes.
According to the recently finalized Upper Deschutes River Basin Study, water conservation work on the irrigation distribution system as a whole is needed to secure water for fish, farmers and families into the future. This project will complement irrigation districts’ investment in large canal piping by piping adjacent smaller laterals and implementing on-farm efficiency projects. The goal is to eventually have a fully piped, pressurized, on-demand system that will allow farmers and districts to manage water more efficiently.
Water conserved from these projects will expand opportunities for water marketing or moving water locally between willing sellers and buyers.
“Creating greater efficiencies in irrigated agriculture takes pressure off the entire water supply system, creating the ability to restore flows in the Deschutes River,” explains Kate Fitzpatrick, Executive Director of the Deschutes River Conservancy.
“We are committed to conserving Central Oregon’s water resources to benefit fish, farms, and the Deschutes River,” said Central Oregon Irrigation District Manager and Deschutes Basin Board of Control President Craig Horrell. “The investment from NRCS allows us to build on extensive collaborative work currently underway by COID in the Upper Deschutes Basin to restore flows and provide increased water security for basin stakeholders.”
“It’s very gratifying to see this project come to fruition,” reflects Fitzpatrick. “This work will complement ongoing large canal piping to create efficient water distribution systems and open up opportunities for further water stewardship to irrigation districts and patrons. When we can improve these systems, it reduces demand and benefits our precious rivers and streams.”
“The Regional Conservation Partnership Program is a public-private partnership working at its best,” said Terry Cosby, Acting Chief for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. “These new projects will harness the power of partnership to help bring about solutions to natural resource concerns across the country while supporting our efforts to combat the climate crisis.”
# # #
About the Deschutes River Conservancy: Twenty-five years ago, the Deschutes River Conservancy (DRC) formed with a mission to restore streamflow and improve water quality in the Deschutes River Basin. The DRC specializes in programs and projects that employ voluntary, market-based incentives to restore flows. The DRC is non-litigious and serves as leaders and facilitators of basin-wide water management conversations. The board is comprised of key private and public stakeholders in the basin. The organization has worked with eight irrigation districts and over 200 landowners to restore over 208 cubic feet per second of streamflow to the basin’s rivers and streams. 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
Deschutes County Soil and Water Conservation District: The Deschutes SWCD promotes wise use and conservation of Oregon’s natural resources within Deschutes County. Deschutes SWCD provides local leadership, technical assistance, information, and access to state and federal cost-share programs to make positive changes on your land. www.deschutesswcd.org