The Deschutes River Conservancy was awarded $1.37 million as part of a federal drought relief package.
The $20.5 million package was divided among 13 drought resiliency projects in five Western states, and the Deschutes Basin was the only one selected in Oregon.
The Deschutes River Basin (DRC), the Deschutes Basin Board of Control, and its municipal partners within the Central Oregon Cities Organization will use the funds to create a Water Bank for time and energy-efficient mechanisms to move water between users and the river.
“We are living in unprecedented times in the Western United States,” said Kate Fitzpatrick, Executive Director of the Deschutes River Conservancy. “The status quo system of water management is not working for rivers or farmers in the Deschutes Basin, and we’re seeing the consequences in our depleted rivers and in dried up, fallowed fields.
“Voluntary water banking is one of the ways we envision moving into a more resilient future. Paired with water conservation projects (irrigation district piping and on- farm efficiency improvements) and better stewardship, we feel confident that there will be the water supplies needed for rivers, farms, and communities.
“We are proud to model with our partners how communities can come together to solve difficult water issues.”
The Bank will rely wholly on voluntary actions and will be locally controlled by bank partners, including the irrigation districts that hold the majority of the water rights in the basin.
Bank activities will be focused on restoring critical streamflows, assuring that farmers get the water they need to grow crops, and securing future water for growing urban communities.
The grant will also fund critical elements of drought management, including enhanced metering and monitoring of water diversions, the ability to better forecast climate conditions and drought impacts on reservoir and river levels, and a strategy to tie these forecasts to needed responses in an accessible and web-based platform.