I am thankful of the Bend Bulletin’s continuing coverage of local water issues. Unfortunately, the article in yesterday’s paper, Districts make last-ditch effort to conserve water for Deschutes River, was somewhat misleading. While it is true that plans call for over $100M to be spent to install canal piping, those are almost exclusively federal taxpayer funds, not irrigator funds. That should have been highlighted at the beginning of the article, not buried at the end.
I believe this is a critically important point that should be made in every article on the subject. The citizens of Oregon own all the water, we are not compensated for it by irrigators who take the water for their private gain, and federal funds are now subsidizing their private interests to save some of the water that we own but they are wasting.
Clearly, piping leaking canals to conserve water is an important goal. It alone will not solve our current and looming water issues, however. Reservoirs are not filling, river levels are dropping, the aquifer is being depleted, and a drier climate means more precipitation is needed to maintain water supplies while we are getting less.
Also note that it’s not just Oregon spotted frogs who are suffering from lack of water. So to are other aquatic species, land animals, and plants. A hotter, drier climate means that the ground itself is thirsty and evaporation occurs at an accelerated rate. Water that in the past was available to plants, or to groundwater recharge, might now be bound up in the soil itself before it is evaporated. The ground requires a certain level of saturation before it will release excess moisture.
Canal piping is projected to require over one billion dollars of investment in total, but it alone will not solve our water issues. I believe that a more holistic and fundamental rethinking of water policy is required. One billion dollars could go a long way to establishing a water policy for the next 100 years, versus protecting the current relic of the past.