Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden today announced a total of $1,370,473 in grant money from the Bureau of Reclamation to reduce the impact of drought in Central Oregon. These funds will help establish and administer a water bank for the Deschutes Basin of Central Oregon, increase water monitoring within irrigation districts, and improve drought forecasting. This is one of 13 initial projects nationwide selected by the Bureau of Reclamation in 2022 to build long-term drought resiliency.
“Oregon has been severely impacted by extreme drought conditions, and we still have a ways to go to provide farmers, ranchers, and Tribes with the resources and assistance they need to get through these extremely difficult water years,” said Merkley. “I am pleased the Bureau of Reclamation recognizes the hard and important work done by the Deschutes River Conservancy and the Deschutes Basin Board of Control to combat drought conditions. I look forward to following the progress of this important project, and will keep pushing for Central Oregon to receive the funds and resources they need to combat and build long-term drought resiliency programs.”
“Drought has hit Central Oregon hard, and I’m gratified these federal resources earned by the Deschutes River Conservancy and the Deschutes Basin Board of Control will help ranchers, farmers and Tribes weather this major challenge to their livelihoods,” said Wyden. “It’s clear more needs to be done to assist these Oregonians as well as others in similar straits statewide, and I’ll keep working to provide similar federal investments in building drought resiliency throughout Oregon.”
The Deschutes River Conservancy will work in conjunction with the Deschutes Basin Board of Control (DBBC) and various other stakeholders—such as member irrigation districts and municipalities—to develop a resource-efficient process to move water between users to combat resource needs specific to droughts. This project will create modeling efforts to understand both current conditions and to forecast and enhance real-time data collection when monitoring river flows and reservoirs at various basin locations. Modeling results will be analyzed through GIS data to look real-time flow conditions and land and water conditions. This information will provide water managers with the most accurate water resources data in the Deschutes Basin, enabling flexible and voluntary decision making on market-based reallocation of water, especially during drought conditions.
“This funding could not have come at a better time,” said Kate Fitzpatrick, Executive Director of the Deschutes River Conservancy. “As the Deschutes Basin endures continued drought, we need to implement all available strategies to meet streamflow and community water needs. This federal investment in establishing a voluntary water bank that can meet needs adaptively and in real-time will accelerate our collective work to solve difficult water issues.”
“Deschutes Basin irrigation districts are committed to adapting to the changing climate conditions and taking a collaborative approach to improving water reliability in a way that does the most good for farmers, the community, and the environment,” said Craig Horrell, Chair of the DBBC. “The $1.3 million investment in the Deschutes Basin will be utilized to find better and more efficient ways to move and monitor water for years to come.”