The water level in Wickiup Reservoir is at a historic low on Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021.

North Unit Irrigation District lowered flows of water into its canal to negligible amounts Monday, effectively shutting off water to its patrons.

The shut-off was the earliest that North Unit has closed its canal since Wickiup Reservoir was completed in 1949. Wickiup Reservoir, which holds back storage water for North Unit patrons, has 3,046 acre-feet of water, which is 2% of capacity. An acre-foot of water is the amount of water to cover 1 acre of land in 1 foot of water.

The flow out of Wickiup Reservoir as of Monday had fallen to 728 cubic feet per second, which is down from 1,040 cfs a week ago.

The flow of water entering the North Unit canal has fallen from 287 cfs a week ago to just 5 cfs. It is being kept at 5 cfs for basic maintenance purposes and to identify water loss in the lined sections of the canal.

Josh Bailey, North Unit’s general manager, said water will begin to flow again around Oct. 1, when live flow rates held by senior rights holders become available.

Severe drought this year is forcing irrigation districts to shut down early, as reservoirs dry up and streams run at reduced flows. In a typical nondrought year, the North Unit canal gates will remain open until early October. North Unit provides irrigation water to nearly 59,000 agricultural acres in Jefferson County.

Elsewhere in Central Oregon, Prineville Reservoir is 29% full, and Haystack Reservoir is 33% full. Ochoco Reservoir is less than 12% full. The actual amount is not known because the water is still being pumped out but the water level is below the sensor that monitors the reservoir level. {%%note} {/%%note}

North Unit was the second irrigation district to shut off prematurely this year. Arnold Irrigation District closed its canal on July 31.

Ochoco Irrigation District is on a split allocation this year due to the drought, according to district manager Bruce Scanlon. District patrons who only receive water from Ochocho Reservoir will have their water stopped Friday — that impacts about 25% of the district. Those patrons who have their water from Prineville Reservoir will have water until approximately Oct. 1.

Swalley Irrigation District announced on its website that it will cut back deliveries by 50% on Sept. 15. Further cutbacks will be made Oct. 1. However, those changes are mainly due to the structure of the district’s water right rather than the drought, said Kyle Gorman, south-central region manager for the Oregon Water Resources Department.

Tumalo Irrigation District is currently running a rotation schedule of seven days on and seven days off for its water deliveries. It expects the water to be completely shut off by Oct. 4.

Central Oregon Irrigation District announced water cuts last month and is now delivering 60% to 70% of normal. The district plans to shut down Oct. 1. With 3,600 patrons served, COID is the largest in Central Oregon in terms of patrons.

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(4) comments


Meanwhile, the City of Bend just can't help themselves.....approving massive developments all over the city. These developments put a greater strain on the water issues that are now at a 'we better do something quickly' stage. Unfettered growth has consequences. The greed at the City of Bend continues, catering to developers like they've always done.


A completely separate issue. None of Bend's water comes from the Deschutes River or Wickiup Reservoir. Bend's water usage is small fraction of the amount used by the irrigation districts. Irrigators use over 90% of the water used in the region.


Does the Bulletin know if commercial businesses (golf courses) or homeowners have been officially asked to conserve water? Have water prices been increased to incentivize less use?


The Deschutes River water used by the irrigation districts is conpletely separate from the ground water and surface water sources used by the city of Bend. I think Bend does have from conservation measures in place (i.e., lawn watering every other day). But anything Bend does has no effect on the level in Wickiup Reservoir. Taking shorter showers won't matter. Bend uses only a small fraction of the water used in the region; over 90% is used by irrigators.

Per the water laws in the West, water delivered to water rights holders through the irrigation districts is free; irrigation district customers just pay a small fee to the district for the operation and maintanence of their system. Customers receive their water according the water right they own, based on seniority, with more junior rights holders getting cut off first when there are shortages. Since the North Unit district has the most junior rights, they are always the one cut off first in drought years.

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