Farmers whose water was shut down earlier this year are getting one last gulp before irrigation season comes to a close.
In a better-late-than-never situation, Central Oregon Irrigation District, the senior water right holder in the basin, shuts down early so they can install pipes in some of their canals.
The remaining flow is now available to Arnold Irrigation District in Bend and North Unit Irrigation District in Madras… places and farmers that haven’t had water in more than six weeks.
“For the most part, the farmers I’ve spoken to are very appreciative to have the water to get some moisture back in the ground,” said Mike Britton, Executive Manager of the North Unit Irrigation District. “Some will use it to try to get a crop up. Carrot seed, for example, can use the water this time of year.”
Water also helps with potato harvest which is getting underway.
But overall, the situation remains dire.
Many farmers reduced the amount of crops they planted and, subsequently, harvested far less than normal.
Doing so reduces revenues and will ripple throughout the economy, and the food supply, for months and years into the future.
“We are hoping for a La Nina winter with lots of precipitation, snow in the mountains. Actually, late snow that can hang out up in the mountains into June and July would be great,” Britton said.
The drought is so extreme, it will take several consecutive winters of above average precipitation for farmers across the region to return to a semblance of normal water supplies and normal production.
In the meantime, North Unit Irrigation District is exploring a plan to pump water from Lake Billy Chinook but it will take years to implement and hundreds of millions of dollars worth of federal assistance to make possible.