Imagine being able to water your yard and lawn one week, but not the next. That’s the challenge some farmers are facing as water conservation measures take effect.
Central Oregon Daily News visited with two farmers whose water supplies are being reduced due to persistent drought conditions.
Greg Mohnen got a big first cutting of blended hay off the 80-acre Triple S Ranch near Tumalo. He credits the cool, wet spring for much of the increased production.
But now that the summer heat has arrived and streamflows are declining, the Tumalo Irrigation District is switching to rotational water deliveries. That means Mohnen has to carefully manage the water when it’s available to finish a second cutting.
“If you can manage and get across your field within seven days and put down approximately two inches of moisture on, it will hold for that week that it (the water) is off,” Mohnen said.
A few miles north on the Larkin Valley Ranch, which raises and processes beef and lamb from the farm to the table, reduced water deliveries trigger a cascade of diminishing returns.
“It causes us to start feeding hay earlier in the season if we are running out of fall pasture. It effects gains on the cattle and the lambs. The feed gets a little older, tougher, drier and it’s less palatable. It has a pretty good effect on our program,” said Jeff Larkin, Larkin Valley Ranch owner.
The Arnold, Tumalo, Central Oregon and Lone Pine irrigation districts are reducing water deliveries due to declining natural flows in the Deschutes River.
The districts are advising their patrons to proactively plan for potential water shortages.
At least one of them, the Arnold Irrigation District, is planning to shut off entirely the week of July 13.