Bulletin Column on Water Rights

Yesterday George Weurthner had a worthwhile letter to the editor in the Bulletin on water rights.  I agree with his comments, here’s my 2 cents.  Over 100 years ago, when Central Oregon was mostly unsettled wilderness, the state gave away water rights, not water ownership which remains with the public, in an effort to create a local, agricultural based economy.  Today, our area is booming and agriculture in Deschutes County is a minor and decreasing component of our economy.  Nevertheless, irrigators continue to divert 90% of the water in the upper Deschutes Basin.  It is well past time to reallocate the public’s water using a modern definition of beneficial use.  It is possible to maintain water rights for irrigators who are truly using it for agriculture, provide for other irrigators willing to pay a market price, while supporting the growth of our modern economy, ensuring municipal water supplies, and restoring our public water ways.