Letters: Conserving water should pay

August 18, 2020
Letters: Conserving water should pay

First, I would like to thank The Bulletin for its renewed interest in the crisis in water resources in Central Oregon. I recall a recent article where a rancher was quoted at the end of the piece, “I should be compensated for conserving water but I’m not.”

That statement illustrates both the largest obstacle and the greatest opportunity in creating a basin-wide system of abundant water to sustain the needs of farms, communities, fish, wildlife, and recreation.

Currently, irrigation districts are compensated with state and federal grants to pipe and improve their delivery systems and receive a portion of the conserved water to expand service. Conservation groups and natural resource agencies are compensated with donations and grants to get more water back into the stream and serve the requirements of the Endangered Species and Clean Water Acts.

Individual water users who wish to conserve pay extra. They pay higher assessments needed to complete the piping projects. If a water user wishes to lease their water back to the stream, they must pay their assessment, plus an additional handling fee. If they just use less, they face loss of their water right.

Yet, individual water users have the capacity to save significant amounts of water at a much lower cost and actually multiply the savings generated by multi-million-dollar piping projects. For that to happen, the system needs to change. On-farm conservation needs to produce tangible benefits to the farmer, not added cost.

—Jeff Rola, Tumalo

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