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Deschutes Soil and Water Conservation District seeks to help farmers cut down on water loss - Energy And Water Development Corp

Deschutes Soil and Water Conservation District seeks to help farmers cut down on water loss

Water-saving efforts to help landowners, wildlife and rivers

(Update: Adding video, comments from DSWCD District Manager, Erin Kilcullen)

REDMOND, Ore (KTVZ) — The Deschutes Soil and Water Conservation District, Deschutes River Conservancy and Central Oregon Irrigation District are partnering to implement water-saving projects around Deschutes County.

“Central Oregon is growing, it’s going to continue to grow, and we have been in a drought, in a declared drought for three years. Water is a big necessity to our local economy,” DSWCD District Manager Erin Kilcullen said Monday.

Last August, county commissioners approved $1.45 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding for on-farm efficiency water conservation by the three entities, most of which was directed to water conservation for private landowners along COID’s Smith Rock-King Way canal-piping project. The rest is being made available to private landowners elsewhere in the county.

The portion allotted to the soil and water conservation district will fund the On-Farm Efficiency Water Conservation Investment Program.

The objective of the program is to accelerate existing water conservation efforts in Deschutes County by improving on-farm irrigation conveyance systems, upgrading farms’ infrastructure from flood to sprinkler irrigation, and
improve landowners’ knowledge and skills in managing irrigation water on their farm.

The district manager points out that one big problem is farmers relying on flood irrigation, which floods property and crops, leading to substantial waste of irrigation water.

“Our goal is to switch that flood irrigation to sprinkler irrigation,” Kilcullen said. “A lot of that water that they’re flooding, it will run off of their property. For some properties, their water runs into local waterways, and so we’re trying to make these more efficient.”

Between sprinkler systems and large canals being piped over time, landowners will eventually need to use less water.

“So if you’re using less water, you, over time, won’t need your full water right,” Kilcullen said. “That water can be conserved back in storage, or it can be sent to farmers up in North Unit Irrigation District,” where Jefferson County farmers have been hit hard by recent drought conditions and low reservoir levels due to its junior water rights.

Priority for the funding is dependent on how much water the landowner will be saving through the upgraded system.

“For each project we’ll be funding up to $20,000, or 75% of the total system cost for each landowner,” Kilcullen said. “We’re trying to make it equitable and fair for landowners throughout Deschutes County.”

Twenty percent of the funding will be made available to irrigators throughout Deschutes County and in the other irrigation districts. The funding will be provided on a cost-share basis to assist landowners in converting from flood to sprinkler irrigation, or to implement other water conservation savings activities. Investments of up to $15,000 per landowner would be made, with a 1:1 landowner cost-share.

Deschutes County landowners have until Feb. 11 to submit their applications for funding.

Applications can be submitted by e-mail to with the subject line “ARPA application” or by mail at:

Deschutes Soil and Water Conservation District
625 SE Salmon Ave.
Redmond, OR. 97756

The following lists the criteria for eligibility:

• A landowner in Deschutes County
• Have an irrigation water right on the property that will be enrolled
• Must produce hay/forage or other agricultural crops, or raise agricultural livestock
• Must be the landowner or has decision making authority for the property being enrolled
• Property being enrolled must be outside of the Smith Rock Regional Conservation Partnership
Priority (RCPP) area

Project that are ineligible for the program are:
• Pond lining (unless it is part of the irrigation upgrade project)
• Pond or Cistern (unless it is part of the irrigation upgrade project)
• Pump installation (unless it is part of the irrigation upgrade project)
• Do not have a water right on the property that will be enrolled
• Irrigation water used for lawns

High priority will be given to projects that convert flood to sprinkler irrigation, reduce off site impacts to
water bodies such as streams, rivers, or irrigation canals, reduce water loss in conveyance systems.
Limited funding is available.

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