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Amid drought, some S. Deschutes County homeowners say their wells are drying up

'Suddenly mid-shower, it just shut off completely'

LA PINE, Ore. (KTVZ) -- A serious drought, low snowpack and more homes being built in the area means the water supply is low for some in southern Deschutes County. Some residents are seeing their wells are drying up. But they can't just drill deeper. Most property owners need to dig an entirely new well, to hit more water.

One La Pine woman said she had to have her wells pump replaced because she ran out of water.

"I started noticing a pressure change in the water first, then it got to the point where it wouldn't work in the bathroom, it wouldn't work in the kitchen, and then suddenly mid-shower it just shut off completely," Nicole Retzleff told NewsChannel 21 on Wednesday. "So then you're in your towel running next door trying to finish just -- a daily task."

Some people have had to change the way they water their property. Diana Gewin in the Three Rivers area says she has to hand-water her grass, instead of using a sprinkler, which evaporates too fast. But hand-watering has it's challenges.

"I have to stand out here for like an hour and a half a day to hand-water to get everything in there. It's an interruption, but this is where we live, so this is what we have to do to be able to stay here." Gewin said.

Dry conditions means a higher demand for water. Most well basins are shared by several neighbors, and Andy High, the owner of Thompson Plumbing and Irrigation, says that means the water supply is connected.

"It's all a cycle, and we're all connected and that's a key piece. Our snow pack was light and the 90 degree days aren't helping because it's melting things faster," said Andy High, owner of Thompson Plumb and Irrigation.

High says there are a few ways to help conserve water. Do dishes and irrigate at night, get a cistern, which collects water, and see if your well pump needs replacing.

The cost to dig a new well can be $3,000 to $10,000.

Author Profile Photo

Carly Keenan

Carly Keenan is a multimedia journalist and producer for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Carly here.



  1. It has to be said: if you’re still watering your lawn despite the warning signs, you deserve to have your well dry up. It’s a selfish need in dry times. Wise up you dolts.

    1. Or it could be the green lawn is part of your defensible space around your home to protect it from fire. But you could be right, it might be selfish to want your home to not catch fire….

    1. Pretty easy for the city to take measures to slow or stop growth. If your water supply/storage cant meet the demand then stop cranking out apartment complexes and sub divisions. But then again you would have to ask developers to stop getting rich, and tell the city leadership they will have to work within an actual budget. Seriously doubt that will happen so in the meantime we’ll just blame it all on “climate change” and those bad people with oxygen producing, carbon dioxide storing lawns.

      1. Not that simple. State law says cities must plan for 20 years of growth, and any moratorium due to streets, water etc. has to have a finite end-point and plan/funds to get there. They can’t “just say no” if they meet the criteria.

        1. They can regulate the water usage though. Limit times for lawn watering to evenings where evaporation is lower. Only allow a certain amount of time to water those lawns. Restaurants charging for water and not just bringing you a glass that you didn’t ask for. And, enforce it with fines if people don’t follow the regulation.
          You know… like they do in real desert towns in different states.
          If we have a water shortage, lets act like it.

          1. These are great ideas. I hope these forums can offer more support, creative solutions, and information sharing in the future so we stop being so harsh on one another. Plus, we can get better solutions by tapping into collective experiences, expertise, and knowledge which benefits everyone a bit more than finger pointing. Most people want to live well and happy in community. Great ideas breed more innovation.

        2. A number of years ago I lived in a subdivision that had a building moratorium slapped on it “until we got more water supply” – no mention of any other end point.

          1. In Bend? Where? I probably remember more the things that were broader than a single subdivision (Westside, and then there was Pacific Power involved in some potential moratorium until it had more infrastructure in place).

    1. Or the county could pass an ordinance that allows homeowners to water their lawns in the nude so they could get both a shower and a green lawn. It would be called the “2021 Keeping Up Appearances In Drought Conditions Act”…

    1. Brasada dried up and immediately drilled a new well. They are most likely using their well instead of irrigation to water their golf course. Subsequently, neighboring subdivisions wells are starting to dry up. Who’s to blame – Brasada, the cannabis farms using well water? All I know is my little family of 4 is not using as much water as some of the other major players out here in eastern Bend/Powell Butte. Stop their watering so the rest of us can have peace of mind that we’ll have water to live.

  2. When you live in the high desert, you should not be surprised when nature reminds you of that fact very clearly every hundred years or so. But once again the issue is not residential use as that accounts for just 7% of the water used in Central Oregon. 93% of the water used is for agriculture and flows through open canals to irrigate some very water-intensive crops. So by simply improving the water transportation system of the canals to closed piping, and making some changes in the crops grown with the water will do far more to conserve water than any changes we can make in residential use. Plus note that the USDA states that 30 to 40% of the food produced in the USA is wasted. Combine that with the obesity problem and you can conclude that the real issue is waste in our food supply chain. There is a lot we can do to greatly decrease water usage and still have a lot more people move here. Although I do not want to see CO grow anymore, it is inevitable and so we must plan for it. We can live with a lot less water and if we do it correctly we will be healthier for it.

  3. So sorry this happened to these people. How stressful and scary. Thank you for sharing your story. Drought is a little scary for so many. I hope we can work together to create solutions and help give these folks some relief too. 🙏 I have a feeling we will all be working together on solutions because we must over the next couple decades. Might as well start now.

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