In the Prineville Valley, the Ochoco Irrigation District plans a novel approach to meeting water needs this summer.
The district relies on water stored in Prineville and Ochoco Reservoirs, both of which are well below average water levels for this time of year.
Though winter and spring storms may yet bring enough precipitation to support a full allocation of water for area agriculture, the district is also offering a new water leasing program designed to help irrigators manage water in case of limited supply, according to a release.
The program will allow irrigators with 10 or more acres to lease water on a temporary basis from other OID farmers.
Farmers who are in a position to provide water to the program instead of irrigating will receive a premium “dry-year” payment rate that is higher than the amount offered in a long-running district annual instream leasing program.
The higher price paid for water is expected to attract more participation – and water supply – which can then be reallocated as additional supply to help water-short farmers.
Any enrolled water that farmers are not interested in leasing will be left in the Crooked River to support fish and wildlife.
OID is offering the program in collaboration with the Deschutes River Conservancy.
“We’ve been working with the DRC on instream leasing for the better part of 20-years. Expanding the program so that farmers can get the water they need in dry years is the next step, and one we’re proud to take”, said OID manager Bruce Scanlon. “It fits well alongside conservation projects and other district priorities that will position us to continue to serve our patrons into the future.”
A program information session will take place on January 25. Additional information is available on the Ochoco Irrigation District website: http://www.ochocoid.org/resources/dry-year-water-leasing-program
“We’re excited about where this program could lead. We’ve had a very successful leasing program for over 20 years and adding a dry-year leasing option is just the first of many steps we’re taking at the DRC to make sharing water in the basin a more broadly accessible program.” DRC Program Manager, Natasha Bellis said. “Making lasting streamflow restoration in the Deschutes River Basin will require many tools, leasing being just one.”