NUID, COID partner to balance water
A report on the cooperation between irrigation districts was given at the Feb. 7, Farm Fair by Craig Horrell, manager of the Central Oregon Irrigation District.
Horrell said his district was partnering with North Unit Irrigation. "We're helping backstop water losses for NUID," he said, referring to recent cutbacks due to spotted frog habitat adjustments.
"The Deschutes Basin (water) has been unbalanced for 60 years, and we know we can do better. We have 450 miles of canal and different soil types, and our two boards are working together as a team," Horrell said.
Tools to conserve irrigation water include lease transfers, piping, sharing water, and reservoir management, he said.
"Everyone says COID has on-farm water waste," he admitted, of flood irrigation in some of his area.
A system improvement study was done in his district, which showed it could save 138 cfs (cubic feet per second) with on-farm improvements, and 100 cfs by piping ditches and laterals.
"The plan is, we conserve water and give it to NUID to pick up in the Upper Deschutes," he said.
In turn, NUID can help his irrigation district. "Our partnership with North Unit is super important," he said, mentioning realtors in Bend who are promoting historic districts for properties with sections of canal (due to scenic appeal).
In the Bend area, his district is experiencing a 30-40 cfs loss of water. "Where it's been deemed historic, we can't pipe it. So, we are planning routes to go around the historic area, which would leave them with a dry canal," Horrell said of COID's need to conserve water.
Horrell said under a Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention (PL 566) program, there is a $25 million grant available for improvements, but irrigation districts will have to match it.
NUID board member Marty Richards said there has been talk of running the Deschutes Basin as one irrigation district. "There are districts in California doing this right now," he said.