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Efficiency Improvements Needed to Stretch Oregon’s Limited Water Resources, According to New Report

A new report from OEC, Making Water Work, says that improving water efficiency in agriculture will be critical for maximizing Oregon’s increasingly limited water supply.

Feb 02, 2012

Portland, OR—A new report, Making Water Work, says that improving water efficiency in agriculture will be critical for maximizing Oregon’s increasingly limited water supply. Basins such as Deschutes, Klamath and Umatilla have fully appropriated their water resources, restricting business opportunities and resulting in periodic shortages for Oregonians in these regions. 

Making Water Work from Oregon Environmental Council (OEC) is the result of conversations with farmers and ranchers—a sector that uses 79% of Oregon’s water withdrawals—as well as irrigation experts to formulate effective water solutions. The report’s recommendations come at a critical time, as the state is expected to adopt its first-ever long-term water plan this year, the Integrated Water Resources Strategy. 

“Agriculture plays a crucial economic role here in Oregon, and farmers, ranchers and water providers can improve their bottom line while benefiting stream flows by using water more efficiently,” said Teresa Huntsinger, program director for clean and plentiful water at OEC, and author of Making Water Work. “Investing in efficiency will help maximize Oregon’s precious water supply in the face of population growth and climate change.”

While Oregon is making progress in conservation and efficiency, there are vast opportunities to do more. According to the most recent Federal Farm & Ranch Irrigation Survey, 38% of Oregon’s irrigated acres still use flood irrigation, while only 5% are irrigated with highly efficient drip or low-flow sprinkler irrigation, and only 14% of irrigators use scientific irrigation scheduling. In addition, most irrigation districts in Oregon are only beginning to pipe or line leaky distribution systems that result in considerable inefficiencies. 

Making Water Work outlines a number of recommendations for advancing agricultural water efficiency in Oregon, including: 

  • Coordinate energy and water conservation incentive programs, making them easier to use
  • Prioritize conservation in water resource planning at the state, basin and local levels
  • Increase funding for conservation and water resource management through new and existing revenue sources
  • Build local capacity and knowledge through education, outreach, and technical assistance

The report includes case studies that illustrate current barriers to adopting water conservation measures in the agricultural community, as well as exemplary models like the Klamath Basin Rangeland Trust, which has helped ranchers lease water instream while maintaining productivity, and central Oregon irrigation districts that have piped their canals. 

To view a copy of Making Water Work, please visit www.oeconline.org/mww.  

About the Oregon Environmental Council

The Oregon Environmental Council safeguards what Oregonians love about Oregon—clean air and water, an unpolluted landscape and healthy food produced by local farmers. For more than 40 years we’ve been a champion for solutions to protect the health of every Oregonian and the place we call home. Find out more at www.oeconline.org.

 

 

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