North Unit Irrigation District increases water allotment

June 15, 2022
North Unit Irrigation District increases water allotment

By Michael Kohn

Jefferson County farmers and ranchers will receive a slightly higher allotment of water this summer from the North Unit Irrigation District due to favorable weather conditions over the past two months.

A wet and cool spring prompted North Unit board members to increase the Deschutes allotment to 0.55 acre-feet from 0.45 acre-feet and the Crooked River allotment to 0.28 acre-feet from 0.225 acre-feet. The board approved the increase Tuesday, according to a news release.

The Upper Deschutes and Crooked River basin last month received double the amount of precipitation it normally receives, including 8.4 inches at Santiam Junction, compared to the average precipitation of 4.2 inches for the month of May.

The modest allotment increase is still well below the 2 acre-feet that North Unit patrons received in previous years when Central Oregon was not impacted by drought and low reservoir levels. The North Unit last gave its patrons a full water allotment in 2018.

Wickiup Reservoir, which stores water for the North Unit in the Upper Deschutes River, was just 37% full as of Wednesday. The reservoir's rate of decline is slower compared to a year ago as irrigation districts are diverting less water this year. The release rate is currently around 900 cubic feet per second, compared to 1,200 cfs a year ago at the same time.

North Unit said the allotment can increase or decrease again this year, based on a number of factors, including weather, crop status and patron demand.

Mike Britton, North Unit’s executive manager, said the recent rains helped ease the tight water restrictions but the drought remains in effect for much of Jefferson County, and rations will continue for the foreseeable future.

“Although the recent rains have helped, it still hasn't been enough to solve our drought woes,” said Britton. “July and August will tell us how much the spring rains have really helped.”

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