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Farmers to lose irrigation by mid-August two months sooner than typical season

PAT KRUIS/MADRAS PIONEER - Water from the Deschutes Valley Water District flows directly into the North Unit Irrigation District canal. For the first time, DVWD is selling water for irrigation. The 2021 drought has forced NUID to search everywhere to bring water to its farmers.

The worst water year ever for Jefferson County farmers just keeps getting worse.

The North Unit Irrigation District Board has told farmers the irrigation system will turn off on or around August 20. Typically, the season lasts through mid-October.

"It's unprecedented," says NUID Manager Josh Bailey. "Brutal."

Farmers have tried to make a little bit of water go as far as possible this season. Most have planted barely half of their acreage to concentrate their water on fewer crops. Now the irrigation season may not last long enough to bring those crops to harvest.

Many farmers will lose millions this year.

The district started the season with the lowest allotment ever, one-acre foot. Low river flows, dry conditions and hot temperatures forced the board to cut that allotment twice. On June 21, they cut it to nine-tenths of an acre foot. July 1, they cut it to eight-tenths of an acre foot and capped daily orders to 1.5% of the farmers remaining allotment.

Some farmers could not operate their irrigation equipment with such a low water flow.

The NUID Board voted to allow farmers some flexibility. Farmers may pool their orders and apply a few days allotment over a single day, rotating irrigation days, as long as their total weekly allotment doesn't exceed 1.5% of their remaining water.

"NUID management and staff will continue to monitor the station daily," said Bailey in a statement, "and update patrons as quickly as possible to changing circumstances."


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