'I’ve been with the district since 1991, and this is as bad as it gets'
(Update: Adding video, comments from Tumalo, Central Oregon irrigation districts)
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Two of the eight irrigation districts in the Deschutes River Basin have already shut off their water supply due to the drought, and others they are planning their fall shut-offs earlier than usual this year.
The Lone Pine Irrigation District shut off its water Wednesday, following the Arnold Irrigation District, which turned off its water supply on Aug. 14.
“We don’t think we’ve ever had to shut off two water districts in the history of the Deschutes,” said Jeremy Giffin, the Deschutes Basin watermaster. “Unless we get a lot of snow and rain this winter, we’re likely to be in the same situation next year.”
The Central Oregon Irrigation District is scheduled to shut off the Pilot Butte Canal on Oct. 1 and the Central Oregon Canal on Oct. 5.
Shon Rae, the deputy managing director of COID, said the shut-offs are scheduled about a week sooner than the usual end of the irrigation season.
“I don’t know if we’ve ever shut off,” Rae said. “We might actually even have to shut off earlier than that, if the river flows continue to drop.”
The reason for those shut-offs is two-fold: because of the current drought conditions and in preparation for Phase 1 of the piping construction on the Pilot Butte Canal.
Rae said the river flow is currently at 75 percent, compared to 100 percent in the past during this time of the year.
Ken Rieck, manager for the Tumalo Irrigation District, said it's not at risk of shutting off its water, but it could be next year, if drought conditions persist.
“I’ve been with the district since 1991, and this is as bad as it gets,” Rieck said.
But he said there is also some good news for the Tumalo Irrigation District.
“We’ve made a lot of progress since then,” Rieck said. “We used to have a summer demand of more than 200 cubic feet per second. Currently, we’re running on around 130 cubic feet per second. We’ve had a huge drop in demand.”
He said the drop is mostly due to the piping construction project on the district’s main canal that's nearing completion, replacing those leaking canals.
“This year, we’re not going to run out of water,” Reick said. “But the bad news is, it’s still a drought, and it’s still getting worse. Next year, we are seeing a shortage on the horizon.”
In addition to Lone Pine and Arnold, the Deschutes Basin includes six other irrigation districts --- Central Oregon, North Unit, Swalley, Tumalo, Three Sisters and Ochoco.
According to the Oregon Water Resources Department, the natural river flow in the second half of July proved to be worse than anticipated. As a result, four districts (Arnold, Lone Pine, Tumalo and North Unit) are all relying on stored water.