Groundwater Mitigation Review Complete

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On December 23, 2021, the Oregon Water Resources Department sent the final version of their 5-year review of the Deschutes Basin Groundwater Mitigation Program to the state legislature.  As expected, little was changed in this widely criticized and often misleading document.  As you can see in the attachments to the report, significant objections were submitted by other state agencies, the Tribes, NGOs, and individual citizens.  Many of these objections have been raised and ignored by OWRD for the entire time the DBGMP has been in place.  They portray themselves to the legislature as successfully executing their duties while Central Oregon continues to suffer from lack of effective water management. Such is the nature of government. For more on this topic, see the Groundwater category on the right.

Prineville, Data Centers, and Water: There is a Cost

The Bend Bulletin recently reported on an aquifer recharge project by the City of Prineville which has received funding from Facebook and Apple, who use significant amounts of water to cool servers at their data centers in Prineville.  Here’s a more complete and balanced explanation of the project and its environmental impacts.  Facebook and Apple are trying to reduce their water footprint, but there’s more to the story than reported. 

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HCN, OWRD, & Critical Groundwater Areas

As readers of this blog know, I spend a fair amount of time fishing all around the Klamath Basin and have been educating myself on its water and fisheries issues for many years. I think this area should be of interest to Central Oregon residents as the extreme water woes of our neighbors to the south are likely to be visited upon us as well.  High Country News currently has a long, somewhat wandering article about water management in the Klamath Basin that might be worth scanning.  The part that motivated me to write this post was the mention of “critical groundwater areas”.  Coincidentally, I listened to a call by the Oregon Water Resources Department yesterday on the topic of critical groundwater areas, a concept we should all pay attention to.

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Email to OWRD Commissioners

Here’s an email I sent to Oregon Water Resources Department Commissioners today following their meeting last Friday. In a prior life I spent time as an executive and board member in the private sector and always tried to be cognizant of how information was filtered and presented – what board members hear is not always what they should hear. Perhaps the OWRD Commissioners will consider my thoughts, but I’m not holding my breath.

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OWRD & Groundwater

I spent the day watching the OWRD Commission meeting which was largely devoted to groundwater issues, including a review of the Deschutes Basin Groundwater Mitigation Program.  It was frustrating at best.  OWRD acknowledges that both groundwater and surface water are over appropriated throughout the state but that 70% of all new groundwater applications are routinely approved even with the knowledge that withdrawals are already lowering water tables, causing domestic wells to go dry, and negatively impacting surface water.  OWRD is now saying they need to start looking into this.  START?  One public commenter stated that their well has gone dry due to nearby over pumping and that OWRD’s behavior on this issue has been “criminal”.  

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Wonky But Important: DBGMP 5-Year Review

The Deschutes Basin Groundwater Mitigation Program controls how much groundwater can be pumped out of the ground for municipal, agricultural, manufacturing, and other uses.  Written into law in 1995 and first implemented in 2002, the Mitigation Program established a cap of 200 CFS (cubic feet per second) of new groundwater rights and requires that most withdrawals be “mitigated” by new surface flows from another source.  After 20 years, there is still approximately 20 CFS left in the cap.  By statute, every 5 years the Oregon Water Resources Department is required to submit their review of the program, including the consideration of public comments.  That review is currently underway with comments due by August 25, 2021.  Comments can be made to Sarah Henderson, OWRD Flow Restoration Program Coordinator, at sarah.a.henderson@oregon.gov.

This is a hugely complex and contentious issue, but one that has been, and will continue to be, exceptionally impactful on all Central Oregonians.  It will weigh heavily on long term population growth, local agriculture, recreation, and the health of fish and wildlife.  Keep reading for more.

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