Editorial: Water policy needs debate

September 30, 2020
Editorial: Water policy needs debate

What are we supposed to do about water conservation in Central Oregon?

The simple answer is that we need to do more. But there’s no end of debate about how to get there.

Consider the Ochoco Irrigation District near Prineville. It has plans to install some 9.2 miles of pipe to replace 10.1 miles of open canals. It will mean water moves more efficiently to serve some 39 patrons of the district.

About 4.82 cubic feet of water may be conserved to stay in the Crooked River, as The Bulletin’s Michael Kohn reported.

There’s also a benefit of reducing the chance of drowning in open canals. That all comes at a cost of at least $30 million.

Piping, though, gets criticized for a host of reasons. Some people prefer to look at open canals. Piping is expensive. The direct benefit of the taxpayer dollars spent on the project accrue to the irrigation district and its customers.

Critics are always calling on irrigation districts and their patrons to do more themselves to use water more efficiently. And some people are frankly disgusted with Oregon’s entrenched water rights system that they feel is a damaging way to decide how to distribute water, a public asset.

Does all that mean piping is bad or the Ochoco project is somehow wrong?

We wouldn’t say so. But there is a much larger debate about water policy in Oregon that just doesn’t get enough attention.

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