Letter to the Editor: The Water Belongs to Us

September 25, 2019
Letter to the Editor: The Water Belongs to Us

By George Wuerthner

A recent Bulletin article described how tens of millions of dollars of federal taxpayer funds are slated to be given to Central Oregon irrigation districts to pay for piping their canals.

Ostensibly the justification for using tax dollars to subsidize private business is to reduce the irrigation caused degradation of the Deschutes River.

This is analogous to asking taxpayers to pay for pollution control devices on power plants to reduce dirty emissions.

According to the Oregon Supreme Court, “All water within the state from all sources of water supply belongs to the public.” In other words, use of public water for private profit is a privilege, not a right.

The courts have determined that any removal of water must be secondary to protecting the public’s interest in its water, including protecting public resources.

Yet the state is failing to meet its public trust obligation to protect the public’s interest from the impairments created by irrigators.

Worse, irrigators do not pay a cent for the water they remove. That’s right, sometimes they divert up to 90% of OUR water from the Deschutes River and the public gets no compensation.

I don’t think we should have to subsidize agricultural interests to get OUR WATER back into the river. It’s time to free the river from enslavement by Ag interests and to restore ecologically meaningful flows in the Deschutes River.

George Wuerthner

Executive director of Restore Our Deschutes

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An aerial view of a body of water.