Understanding Water Rights 

Under Oregon law, all water is publicly owned

With some exceptions, cities, farmers, factory owners, and other water users must obtain a permit or water right to use water from any source— whether it is underground, or from lakes or streams.

First in Time, First in Right

There are eight irrigation districts in the Deschutes Basin with 'priority dates' ranging from 1899 to 1916. ‘Senior’ (older water rights) irrigation districts in Central Oregon account for nearly all the water available in the Deschutes River and its tributaries. Securing reliable water for the ‘junior’ (newer water rights) irrigators of North Unit Irrigation District (Madras-area) requires the use of stored winter flows from Wickiup Reservoir.

The water right attributed to the Deschutes River has a priority date of 1983, making the river the most junior water right holder in the basin. 

Current water rights distribution

Water Rights Distribution.jpg

Under Oregon law, all water is publicly owned

With some exceptions, cities, farmers, factory owners, and other water users must obtain a permit or water right to use water from any source— whether it is underground, or from lakes or streams.

First in Time, First in Right

There are eight irrigation districts in the Deschutes Basin with 'priority dates' ranging from 1899 to 1916. ‘Senior’ (older water rights) irrigation districts in Central Oregon account for nearly all the water available in the Deschutes River and its tributaries. Securing reliable water for the ‘junior’ (newer water rights) irrigators of North Unit Irrigation District (Madras-area) requires the use of stored winter flows from Wickiup Reservoir.

The water right attributed to the Deschutes River has a priority date of 1983, making the river the most junior water right holder in the basin. 

Current water rights distribution

Water Rights Distribution.jpg