As Central Oregonians know, the City of Bend is expanding and incorporating land into its urban growth boundary, land that may have irrigation water rights. This land will primarily be used for housing or commercial purposes and, with perhaps the exception of the Park District, will no longer need irrigation water. Water from one of the three existing municipal water systems will be used instead. Unfortunately, the irrigators are not returning the now unneeded water back to the Deschutes.
The Bend Bulletin ran a story this morning that spent considerable space covering how a landowner could petition to keep their irrigation water rights after their land was brought into the UGB, but buried in the article the single sentence that is the real story: “Water rights are included when property sells, but when land is annexed by cities, that water right typically reverts back to the irrigation district.”
As it has in the past, Central Oregon Irrigation District plans to keep the water rights associated with new land brought into the UGB. COID can then transfer those rights to other irrigators rather than return the water to the Deschutes.
The amount of water from land being brought into the UGB is not enough to restore the upper and middle Deschutes to a healthy condition, but every little bit helps, especially given the irrigators latest proposal to take decades and potentially never accomplish biologically significant flow restoration.