Deschutes Co. to invest $1.45M in water conservation project amid drought

Deschutes County Commissioners are investing $1.45 million for a water conservation project through funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
The investment in the On-Farm Efficiency Water Conservation Investment Project will assist on-farm water conservation in all of the County’s irrigation districts.
“This investment will help to accelerate existing water conservation work at a critical time,” said Commissioner Tony DeBone. “As we navigate a historic drought, it’s urgent that we figure out how to do more with the water we have available.”
The project is in partnership with the Deschutes River Conservancy, Deschutes Soil and Water Conservation District, and Central Oregon Irrigation District (COID).
Up to 80% of funding will go toward water conservation work in COID’s Smith Rock-King Way project, where partners will work with private landowners to upgrade the efficiency of their on-farm irrigation.
“This project is a great example of many local partners coming together to create tangible water conservation outcomes both for local farmers and rivers at a time when we need it most,” said Commissioner Phil Chang.
“This is a unique opportunity to contribute a local match for existing federal, state, and local funds.”
The remaining 20% of funding will go toward private landowners throughout the county to convert from flood irrigation to sprinkler irrigation, which is a more efficient method.
“If we are able to help these landowners make their systems more efficient, we can hopefully have water for longer periods of time through the summer for their crops,” said Erin Kilcullen, the general manager of the Deschutes Soil and Water Conservation District at the Board of County Commissioners meeting on August 4.
The investment is a portion of the more than $38 million Deschutes County will receive in ARPA funds.
The County received the first half of the funds in May, and will gain the second half next year.
“We are thrilled that the County has invested in solving critical water issues in our basin. This funding will greatly accelerate ongoing water conservation work, helping our farmers and our rivers,” said Kate Fitzpatrick, executive director of the Deschutes River Conservancy.
“We appreciate the County’s leadership in recognizing that investing in water conservation benefits our community, our economy and our ecosystems.”
“The money couldn’t come at a better time as Central Oregon endures another year of extreme drought. Impacts are being felt in every stream and every irrigation district throughout the Deschutes Basin.”
To learn more about the County’s ARPA investments, visit

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