That is the title of a guest column that appeared today in the Bend Bulletin. It was written by Tod Heisler who lead the Deschutes River Conservancy for 15 years where he attempted to cooperatively work with irrigators to more efficiently use water and return savings to local rivers and streams. While Tod and the DRC had some minor success in this endeavor it has not yielded the needed results. The upper and middle Deschutes continue to be significantly damaged by irrigation practices that have largely remained the same for a hundred years. Tod has now joined Central Oregon Land Watch in a new attempt to initiate change from outside the system. I agree with the viewpoint in this column and welcome him to the community agitating for water reform in the Deschutes Basin.
While I cannot speak for Tod, I would think that one of his biggest frustrations would be the failure of the recently concluded Basin Study Work Group to affect change. This was a taxpayer funded, multiyear, collaborative effort coordinated by the DRC to study water use in Central Oregon and uncover potential changes and savings. It was a big effort with big goals. I was deeply skeptical from the beginning that it would yield operational changes and, unfortunately, have largely been proven correct.
That being said, BSWG was very successful in uncovering potential strategies for saving water. Strategies that would be quicker to implement and far less expensive than those being pursued by the irrigation districts. Simply put, the irrigators are focused on massive, taxpayer funded main canal piping projects when reform and on farm efficiency would be faster, cheaper, and yield equal or superior water savings. But, why do this when you can use other people’s money instead?