Water Rights Leasing

The DRC works with districts and landowners to lease water rights that are not currently being used.

When water is leased instream, it is protected with the same priority date as the original water right – providing significant instream benefits. In addition to the instream benefit, the lease satisfies state beneficial use requirements that the landowner or district needs to prevent the water right from being forfeited. Some water right holders are paid $7.00 per acre-foot to lease, but half of the DRC's instream leasing participants donate their water.

You may lease all or part of your irrigation rights.

The lease options available to you include:

  • 5 year opt out lease - water rights are leased for 5 years. The lessor can opt out of the lease each year 30 days prior to the start of the irrigation season.
  • 1-year standard lease - water rights are leased for one irrigation season instream.
  • Split season lease - water rights are used for part of a season and leased for part of a season in the same year.

Instream leasing protects water rights, provides economic benefits, and helps to restore the Deschutes River and its tributaries. To see the latest leasing accomplishments, please scroll down.

Interested in leasing your water rights? Please contact us.

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Instream leasing has dramatically improved the Middle Deschutes River in the peak summer months.

2018 Water Rights Leasing Accomplishments

In 2018, the DRC leased 4,344 acres of water from 323 individuals for a total volume of 19,986 acre-feet and 58.2 cubic feet per second (cfs) protected instream. Working with voluntary participants and irrigation district partners, the DRC leasing program has averaged 60 cfs annually instream from 1998-2018.

Leases enhance flows in the following reaches: 

  • Middle Deschutes River: 28-31 cfs
  • Lower Deschutes River: up to 7 cfs
  • Whychus Creek: up to 11 cfs
  • Tumalo Creek: 3-4 cfs
  • Lower Crooked River: up to 6 cfs
  • Little Deschutes and Upper Deschutes Rivers – 3.7 cfs
  • In addition, water was leased in Ochoco Creek, McKay Creek, Mud Springs/Trout Creeks, Pole Creek, and Little/North Bear Creeks & Bear Creek

DRC leases 1200-1400 acres instream each year to supply mitigation credits through the DRC’s Groundwater Mitigation Bank which provides temporary mitigation credits to applicants seeking new groundwater rights in the Upper Deschutes Basin.

The middle Deschutes River has water rights that ramp up and ramp down over the season. This matches how irrigators use their water, less is needed in the Spring and the Fall, and also matches how the DRC can legally protect water instream. The maximum amount leased (mid-May thru mid-September) is represented above. April and October leased water would be protected at approximately 40-50% of the full rate and early May and late September would be at 60% of full rate.

The DRC leasing program is supported with funds from the Deschutes Brewery One Billion Gallons Partnership, the Avion Blue Water Program, the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the DRC’s own groundwater mitigation bank.