SISTERS, OR -- A new video released by the Natural Resources and Conservation Service (NRCS-Oregon) highlights how Central Oregon farmers are combating drought.
Three Sisters Irrigation District Manager Marc Thalacker says modernization projects have become a top priority, "We had a 55% system loss, so we used to divert 35,000-acre-feet and deliver 17,000 on farm." He adds, "It wasn’t hard to figure out that all we needed to do was start piping the canals, capture that water, and then we were able to dedicate half of the conserved water to the stream, to bring back steelhead, salmon and bull trout. And the other 25% - or the other half of the water went to the farmers, which then gave them a 25% increase in on-farm availability."
In the video, NRCS District Conservationist Lars Santana says farmers used to rely on more expensive irrigation systems, "It was not very efficient. And now that they’re piping and pressurized water is available to them, they’re able to convert from flood irrigation techniques to more modern and more efficient sprinkler irrigation techniques, as well as drip irrigation."
Tom Bennett, with the Deschutes Soil and Water Conservation District says piping also offers energy benefits for farmers and ranchers, "The fact that they’re getting pressurized water means they don’t have to have pumps connected to the system. If you don’t have pumps, then there’s a certain amount of electricity that you’re not using that isn’t a demand on the electrical grid."
The Three Sisters Irrigation On-Farm and Renewable Energy project was funded through a partnership program with the irrigation district, conservation district, Deschutes River Conservancy, private landowners, NRCS-Oregon and others.