2020 Fall Water Supply Update

August 10, 2020

Water Supply Update

On July 1, 2020, Governor Brown signed Executive Order 20-31 declaring a drought emergency in Jefferson, Crook, and Deschutes counties.  The drought declaration cites dry conditions, low snowpack, lack of precipitation, and forecasted water supplies that are not expected to improve. Regionally, some of the lowest storage levels recorded in area reservoirs along with continued hot and dry weather, have only exacerbated the supply conditions. According to the U.S. drought monitor, portions of the tri-counties area are currently in a state of severe to extreme drought.


Last month, the Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRD) estimated Arnold (AID) and Lone Pine (LPID) Irrigation Districts would be out of natural river flow and possibly stored water, before the end of the 2020 irrigation season.  AID and LPID will likely be out of water beginning next week. Last week, OWRD released an updated Deschutes Basin Storage Report for the period of July 16 – 31. The second half of July proved to be worse than OWRD anticipated with natural flow being extremely low. As a result, four districts (AID, LPID, Tumalo ID, and North Unit ID) are all relying on stored water at this time.


NUID has and continues to monitor supply conditions very closely.  That said, given supply forecasts, the district could potentially see modified operations, similar to 2018, as we enter into the fall irrigation season.


The outlook for basin irrigators could change if other districts that hold senior priority dates reduce the amount of water they are diverting. Changes in regional weather (cooler, wetter) patterns could also benefit basin irrigators going into the final days of the irrigation season.  On September 15, natural flow rates for irrigation diverters on the Deschutes River system change, making portions of natural flow water available for junior water right holders. Further, on October 1, Central Oregon ID will shut off to begin construction on a large pipeline project. That shut off will allow NUID to carry on with normal district operations and deliveries into October.


The NUID board and management appreciates all the efforts our patrons have made to conserve water. We thank you in advance for your understanding during this exceedingly difficult season.


Photo credit to Marisa Hossick



2020 Brings New HEMP Policies

Since its introduction of the 2018 Farm Bill, federal and state policies regarding industrial hemp have increased in clarity and with it, our policies have formalized as well. Since North Unit Irrigation District is a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation project, our policies must align with state and federal guidelines.

In the June 2020 Board Meeting, the Board of Directors passed a resolution, updating the District’s policies regarding industrial hemp. This policy update can be found on our Operational Guidelines webpage through the Growing and Cultivating Industrial Hemp link.

For the most recent information regarding Oregon State Law, please refer to the Oregon Department of Agriculture 


Lava Island Fish Rescue: a Success!

Though the date for the event shifted multiple times throughout the past week, we were blessed to have proactive volunteers ready to jump into action the moment we said: “go!” The rescue occurred across two days: Saturday evening and Sunday morning, rescuing over 3,000 fish from pools throughout the disconnected side channel (final count still pending).

Many wonder why the date shifted and it can be explained simply: the side channel drained differently this year, differently than the many years before it. There can be many theories as to why it behaved differently, but from our perspective what matters was that we were still able to jump into action and make the rescue when it was needed. We had many veterans and experts guiding the scheduling of this event, and because of their help, we were able to take the necessary action.

The rescues had great weather, the volunteers were appreciated with hot coffee donated from Strictly Organic Coffee, and a fabulous lunch sponsored/catered by Wild Oregon Foods and Village Bakery. The rescue is a temporary resolve for the seasonal flow rates within the Upper Deschutes, but even so, the Deschutes Basin Board of Control, their partners Coalition for the Deschutes, Deschutes River Conservancy, and the Deschutes Redbands Chapter of Trout Unlimited, and the many volunteers of Central Oregon made this event a positive collaboration of people sharing the same goal. The goal is to prevent damage to wildlife within the Upper Deschutes River, and to form strong connections that elevate collective action towards water management in the future.

Though this event has always been a positive experience for all those who help out, we look forward to no longer needing to rescue these fish.

Energy Trust of Oregon Funding

Did you know that on average 50% of the irrigation systems installed throughout this region are in need of repair? Yes, you can see them spraying water, but inefficient and ineffective irrigation systems will eat up your water allotment and lower your potential crop yield.

For example, did you know your sprinklers and pressure regulators alone need to be replaced every 5-7 years? Maybe that’s a simple place to start in order to improve your yield/drop of water ordered.

So if you are looking to make the most of the water available, this is the year to fine-tune your irrigation system. And there are many different options in place to help fund the types of repairs.

Through Energy Trust of Oregon’s Energy Efficiency Program, they offer sizable rebates to help fund your upgrade and transform your irrigation system to one resilient of high energy and water costs.


Pivot and Linear Upgrade to MESA/LESA/LEPA/PMDI

Premium Irrigation

Where and how to fund your water savings

There are multiple avenues to fund irrigation upgrades in Jefferson County.  Some apply to all and others depend on the location of your property within the region and who provides you power. The presence of funding opportunities have been around for a while, but keeping track of them has always seemed like a fulltime job in itself.

Robert Wallace at Wy’East has heard your call. He has collected all the avenues currently on deck into one roadmap. Click Here!

Currently, there are multiple efforts focused on improving water quality and water quantity within Jefferson County. For local farmers and ranchers, that means an excess of resources and funding focused on improving how on-farm operations. The funding focuses on reducing soil erosion, silty run-off, inefficient irrigation, high energy costs, and more. Groups such as the National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), the Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District (JCSWCD), the Middle Deschutes Watershed Council (MDWC), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Energy Trust of Oregon, Pacific Power, Central Electric Coop, and partner Wy’East have all been seeking to find and fund projects that reach these goals.


It may not always seem like it, but each complete project contributes to a great tomorrow for all. Follow the links provided in Robert’s handout, or call Lisa at the main North Unit Office to find if there are projects and potential funding for you!


Stay safe this summer!

As the weather heats up, we will all be looking for a place to cool off. But irrigation canals should NOT make the list. Though they look similar to rushing rivers, they have more hidden dangers than what first comes to mind. Irrigation canals have hidden cement structures, slippery moss and sharp rocks, straining barbed fences, syphons and metal gates; all of which create subsurface currents that pull down and overpower even the best of swimmers. Not to mention the chemicals added to the canals to treat aquatic weeds and growth; chemicals that are undetectable but can burn the nose, eyes, and throat.

This warning comes after many drowning deaths in irrigation canals near and far. Some from accidents as valiant as trying to save one’s dog, and getting pulled deeper into the subsurface currents themselves.

The District makes its way through the 2nd-grade classrooms in Jefferson County to educate about the dangers, but that does not mean the message is only meant for them.

In case you or your children missed it, watch the story of Otto the Otter and the boy he could barely save.


2019 Upgrade Rebates and Incentives

How are your sprinklers, nozzles and gaskets?

For those with Pacific Power, Energy Trust of Oregon has announced their 2019 rebates and incentives.  Energy Trust of Oregon not only provides irrigation incentives through their modernization program, but they also provide for Greenhouse Upgrades, Energy-Efficient Upgrades for Equipment and Lighting and Light Controls.

“Making energy-efficient upgrades to your irrigation system can save you energy and water. Energy Trust offers rebates on irrigation hardware, and can calculate incentives for pump and irrigation system upgrades to help realize energy-related savings on your farm.”

Below are the incentives for your sprinklers, nozzles and gaskets. But if you are interested in what else Energy Trust of Oregon provides to their Pacific Power customers, visit their website.


Apply for cash incentives after you purchase the following qualified equipment:

Linear and pivot improvement Incentive
New low-pressure regulators $5 per regulator
New drop tube or hose extensions $2.40 per tube
New “Goose neck” elbow for drop tubes $1.65 per elbow
New multi-trajectory sprays $1 per sprinkler
New multi-trajectory sprays $4 per sprinkler
New multiple configuration nozzles $2.75 per sprinkler
Rebuilt or new impact sprinklers $3.75 per sprinkler
New drains $1 per drain
Wheel and hand-line improvement Incentive
Rebuilt or new impact sprinklers $3.75 per sprinkler
New nozzle for impact sprinkler $0.75 per nozzle
New flow controlling type nozzle $3.75 per nozzle
New drains $1 per drain
New gaskets $2.00 per gasket
Cut and pipe press repair of leaking pipes $10 per section

Incentives are subject to funding availability and may change.

Piping Projects Proceed Throughout Basin

This year finalizes our 58-11 lateral piping project – marking one of North Unit Irrigation District’s largest lateral piping project to date. The project spans 5 miles and is estimated to conserve over 2000 AF of water per irrigation season.

North Unit is not the only ones making great strides in massive piping projects. We share the vigor with Tumalo and Central Oregon Irrigation District, fellow irrigation districts within the Deschutes Basin who’s water savings benefit us all.

Showcased in this video, North Unit and our fellow Irrigation District’s are proud to share the massive feats of water savings found in these projects and grateful for the many hands who bring these victories to fruition.

Precious Resource: Balancing Agriculture, Conservation & Recreation

Did you know 55 percent of the carrot seeds in the U.S. are grown in Jefferson County and another 10 percent is grown in Crook and Deschutes Counties? That’s just one of the sectors that drives the agricultural economy in Central Oregon. In tonight’s cover story, Brian Jennings looks at the growing concerns over the key resource needed to keep that economic engine alive: Water.