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Deschutes County On-Farm Efficiency Water Conservation Investment

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Erin Kilcullen                                          Kate Fitzpatrick                             Baxter Davies       

Deschutes County On-Farm Efficiency Water Conservation Investment

Three organizations in Deschutes County: Deschutes Soil and Water Conservation District (DSWCD), Deschutes River Conservancy (DRC), and Central Oregon Irrigation District (COID) are partnering to implement projects to meet instream and out of stream demands and accelerate programs and resources to improve water conservation on private lands to help solve critical issues. Central Oregon is facing extreme water shortages this year that are exacerbating existing imbalances in water supply and demand, impacting rivers, farmers, and wildlife. The COVID-19 pandemic has added to the struggles farmers are facing this past year. 

Deschutes County Commissioners cooperatively awarded $1.45 million of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding for these organizations to successfully complete a program that will work directly with landowners and producers to install water efficient irrigation equipment for water conservation and Agricultural Best Management Practices. 

Eighty percent of ARPA funding will leverage water conservation work within COID’s Smith Rock-King Way project. Partners will work with private landowners to pipe private laterals and upgrade on-farm efficiency infrastructure from flood to sprinkler irrigation. Reduced water demands in COID will benefit North Unit Irrigation District in exchange for restored winter flows in the Upper Deschutes River. 

Twenty percent of funding will be made available to irrigators throughout Deschutes County and in the other Irrigation Districts. This funding will be provided on a cost-share basis to assist landowners in converting from flood to sprinkler irrigation, or to implement other water conservation savings activities. Investments of up to $15,000 per landowner would be made with a 1:1 landowner cost-share. This work also leverages $400,000 of COID investment over two years in a low-interest loan program for landowners.

This program will accelerate existing work to achieve water conservation goals more quickly, improve irrigation operations for landowners, reduce ‘red tape’ for landowners to implement projects, provide relief for North Unit Irrigation District, facing extreme shortages and economic risk, and increase flows in the Upper Deschutes River.