Arnold Irrigation District shuts down for the season amid historic drought

August 3, 2021
Arnold Irrigation District shuts down for the season amid historic drought

For the second year in a row, Arnold Irrigation District has prematurely shut off its water supply to patrons amid a historic drought that is emptying reservoirs.

Arnold shut off water to patrons on Saturday at 6 a.m. according to a notice on the district’s website. The district has around 640 patrons, including ranches and farms, along the southern portion of Bend.

The irrigation district was informed by Deschutes Basin Watermaster Jeremy Giffin on Thursday by email that the district’s storage account was low and shutoff was imminent. Giffin said some water could be made available in mid-September and again on October 1.

A similar scenario played out a year ago, and Arnold was forced to close the head gate on Aug. 15. That was the first such premature shutdown since 1994 for the district — now it has happened two years running.

Arnold is the third smallest of the eight irrigation districts in Central Oregon. Its water right dates to 1905. This year, district patrons were receiving just 30% of the water they see in a normal year, according to Arnold’s district manager, Colin Wills.

Wills said patrons that need water can truck it in with a water tanker, use well water or they can purchase water from a potable water company.

It has been a challenging year for the district. In May the district had to turn off water to patrons for several days after a sinkhole collapsed part of its main canal. The district has also seen opposition among some to a piping project it plans to conserve water.

Arnold Irrigation District, like other districts in Central Oregon, is feeling the effects of a grueling drought. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, most of Deschutes County is in extreme or exceptional drought.

Drought conditions have worsened severely over the past year and reservoirs, streams and creeks are drying up sooner than expected. The late June heat wave melted most of the snowpack that normally feeds streams later into summer.

Wickiup Reservoir, which stores water for irrigation, is just 6% full and is expected to be empty in two weeks.

“Streams and creeks just did not produce this year,” said Wills. “The snow melted, and it didn’t go into the streams and creeks. It went into the ground. It’s going to be rough for a few years.”


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