Deschutes Water: The Next 50 Years

Learn about a new study that will shape water management for years to come.

Water is a precious resource in our high desert region. And while we are blessed with a lot of it, we also have a lot of needs to meet. With agriculture, fish and wildlife, recreation, and rapidly growing cities, there are large and growing demands on our water.

The truth is water in our Deschutes River basin is over allocated — it’s estimated that we currently have a shortfall of 230,000 acre-feet of water compared to the total need.  As is often the case when it comes to water in the West, disruption of fish and wildlife habitat on the Deschutes is real and growing and has not been adequately addressed. Over allocation means that water quality and quantity suffer during summer months, especially during dry years, and flow patterns do not reflect the natural pattern. Add climate change into the mix, which could radically disrupt historic water flow volumes and patters, and the future of our regional water supply is at risk. This situation is also ripe for continued conflict between competing needs.

Now, after three years of hard work, a new report on water in the Upper Deschutes River basin is nearly complete. The report could shape water management in the basin for the next fifty years.

The Upper Deschutes Basin Study was designed to develop a plan to meet the needs of all the basin’s water users over the medium and long-term. It analyzed different water management strategies as well as the effects of three different climate change scenarios. The study was guided by a working group of 38 conservation groups, irrigation districts, state and local government and others.

Before they finalize the report, its authors want to share their work with Central Oregonians. They’re hosting a series of public workshops next week throughout the region where they’ll explain their draft findings and recommendations, answer questions, and get feedback.

A healthy Deschutes River is essential to our region, its beauty, history and future. It deserves to be restored. And restoration is possible if we make the right choices today – choices that should be informed by the results of the basin study.

If you care about water in our region, we urge you to attend one of the open house events. Click the location links below to learn more.

March 5th, 1:00-3:00 PM in Sunriver
March 5th, 5:30-7:30 PM in Bend
March 6th, 5:30-7:30 PM in Madras