Deschutes Basin 101

Why do Our Rivers Need Help?

Water in the rivers was once seen as an unlimited resource to be used for human benefit. Dams were built, canals were dug, and from these the Central Oregon we call home today has developed and grown. From the rivers, we brought life to this community, but it came at the cost of creating ecological imbalances in the Deschutes Basin.

Fortunately, our values and understanding of the needs of rivers have changed over time, in positive ways; however, so has the burden of increased demands for irrigation, recreation, businesses, and household use. Surface water in the Upper Deschutes Basin has been over-allocated since the early 1900s, which means the State of Oregon issued more water rights permits than the amount of water that exist in the rivers; this causes many stream reaches to suffer from unnaturally high and low flows at different times of the year. These altered flows have resulted in poor water quality, degraded habitat for fish and wildlife, fish mortality, and streambank erosion.

These imbalances in streamflow impact the future of not only our local farmers, wildlife, and recreation, but also the viability of our communities and businesses, which all depend on the rivers and their water.

Today, we know that we need to balance the available water with human needs and the rivers’ health. We need to work together to restore the health of the Deschutes Basin and find ways to resolve the growing demands on this precious resource.

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