Water will be cut off to more than 4,000 acres of farms and ranches Saturday morning when the Arnold Irrigation District shuts down.
It’s the first full shutdown of an irrigation system due to the drought, and probably not the last.
Workers at 6 a.m. will close the gate where the Arnold Irrigation District draws water from the Deschutes River.
The canal will dry up within 8 hours.
“Cutting us off mid-summer in the heat. That just kills the plants,” said Danny Young.
On Friday, Young irrigated his 18 acres of orchard grass for the last time this summer.
He got one hay cutting off his fields and didn’t make enough to break even.
“I’m not sure what I’m going to do. I might have to look for other products to grow that take a drip system or don’t require near as much water,” he said.
A few miles away, Marvin Wodtli is prepared for the irrigation shutdown at 2nd Life Lavender Farm.
He expanded his storage pond and switched to a drought-tolerant lavender crop that uses very little water.
“I should be able to water for the next two and a half months. My drip irrigation system uses a fraction of the water to grow grass or hay crops,” Wodtli said. “I’m feeling really good about where we are at but I’m feeling really bad for everybody else. Their farms are going to dry up and there’s nothing there.”
“When you can’t deliver water to the patrons that are paying an assessment for operations and maintenance, and they can’t get water, it’s tough,” said Colin Wills, Arnold Irrigation District manager.
This is an early shutdown for Arnold Irrigation District, which holds the most junior of water rights in Central Oregon.
Other districts, including North Unit in Jefferson County, where millions of dollars of crops and contracts are at risk, will shut down in the next few weeks.