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Drought and Water Conservation
Residential Water Users
What can I do? 
We can all do our part to lessen the effects of limited water supplies expected this summer.  We can start by conserving the water we use today. 
Lawn and Garden: 
Outdoor water use accounts for almost half the water used by the American home, and thus provides the greatest single opportunity for conserving.
  • Water early in the morning before 10:00 a.m.  Watering in the heat of the day allows the water to evaporate and watering late in the day may promote fungus and other lawn diseases.
  • Depending on the weather, it’s generally better to water once a week and provide 1 inch to 1 ½ inches of water.  (If it’s hot, you might have to water more often.)
  • Time how long it takes to apply one inch of water by placing a flat-bottomed can about 6-feet away from the sprinkler.
  • Do not mow lawns too short; taller grass requires less water.  Consider letting your lawn brown out.  It will come back.
  • Alternative Water Supply, Emergency Water, Soft Water, Chemical Free Water (from Plastmo).
  • City of Bend water conservation page.
  • Conserve H2O
Repair Leaks: 
Check faucets and hose connections for leaks.  Inspect pipes for pinhole leaks, and leaking joints.  A slow drip can waste 15 to 20 gallons a day.  Fix it and you will save almost 6,000 gallons a year.
Showers and Baths: 
Use low volume showerheads.  They are inexpensive and can pay for themselves in water, sewer and energy savings in less than a year.  For a five minute shower they can reduce water usage from some 40 gallons to 12 to 15 gallons.
Flush only when needed.  Do not use the toilet as a trash can.  Put a water displacement device inside the toilet tank.  Check for leaks.
Clothes Washer and Dishwasher: 
Do only full loads.  Avoid using extra cycles whenever possible.  Choose a water-saving model.
Drinking Water: 
Keep a container of cool water in the refrigerator instead of running the faucet.  Leave the water off when brushing your teeth or shaving.
Garbage Disposal: 
Use the sink disposal sparingly.
Car Washing: 
Rinse car once, wash from bucket, rinse quickly again.  Be sure to use a shut-off nozzle on your hose.

Please contact your individual water utility for more information on water conservation.  Following are links to some utilities with informational websites on water use and conservation (even if you don´t live in these cities, the websites contain a multitude of useful information). 



Municipal Water Users
Drought White Paper
Water Conservation or Curtailment Plans
Purchase or Agreements of existing permits/water rights
Two special features of the declaration of a drought may be of particular interest to municipalities.  These features of the State´s authority deal with water conservation or curtailment plans and the purchase of options or agreements of existing permits/water rights
Water Conservation or Curtailment Plans 
If a declaration of a severe drought is declared by the Governor (ORS 536.710).  The Governor may order individual state agencies and political subdivisions within any drainage basin or sub-basin to implement, within a time certain following the declaration, a water conservation or curtailment plan or both, approved under ORS 536.780.  The Water Resources Commission has adopted rules (OAR 690-019-0090) consistent with the statue.  These plans shall address the following:
  • Reduce usage of water resources for non-essential public purposes;
  • Undertake activities consistent with law designed to promote conservation, prevention of waste, salvage and reuse of water resources; and
  • Establish programs consistent with law designed to promote conservation, prevention of waste, salvage and reuse of water.
  • Water curtailment plans shall be developed to provide water necessary for human and livestock consumption during a severe, continuing drought. The plans shall specify procedures:
  • To curtail, adjust or allocate the supply of water resources for domestic, municipal and industrial use; and
  • To regulate the times and manner in which water resources are consumed.
After the Governor declares a drought, if an application for an emergency water use is made under 690-019-0040 (c) the Director may require the applicant to submit a plan and evidence showing conservation and water use curtailment measures have been taken before use is made of an emergency use permit.  If an emergency water use permit is issued to a state agency or political subdivision 690-019-0040 (6) (a) requires: submission of a water conservation or curtailment plan.
Purchase of Options or Agreements of existing permits/water rights 
Under ORS 536.770, the Commission, a local government or public corporation may purchase an option or enter an agreement to use an existing permit or water right, for the purpose of distribution for any beneficial use during the drought.  The entity holding such an option or agreement:
  • Is not required to construct any diversion or appropriation facilities or works;
  • May use the water acquired under the option or agreement on property or for a use which are different than allowed in the permit or water right, if the water is used to replace water not available to the local government or public corporation because of the drought; and
  • May begin use at any time after approval by the commission so long as the total use by the water right or permit holder and the option or agreement user is within the rate, volume and seasonal limits of the permit or water right.
The administrative rules (690-019-0080) for this feature of the statue also require the Department to place these drought mitigation features in our public notice.  If the use is not intended for in-stream use, then the water shall be used to supplement an existing water right where water is not available under the existing right.
The rules (in 690-019-0030) have some other features that pertain to allowing emergency water without first conducting a hearing (under ORS 537.170); waiving well construction notice (ORS 537.753) and reporting (ORS 537.762); allowing a temporary exchanges (ORS 540.533) without notice (ORS 540.535); granting preference of use for human consumption, stock watering; or a temporary change in use, place of use or point of diversion of water under the terms of an emergency use permit without notice and waiting requirements (ORS 540.520).
Two existing programs which the Field Services Division has ongoing fit well with these drought mitigation authorities: Water Management and Conservation Plans (OAR 690-86-140) and the instream lease/transfer programs (OAR 690-77).  Under both of these programs the features of the required elements are consistent with the drought mitigation programs.  Although some special suspension of some notice requirements are allowed under a drought.
Since the instream issue is covered by a different white paper I will concentrate on curtailment.  Curtailment plans are very likely to be the biggest near term need for most entities.  Both the 690-86-140-(3) and the Department´s Model Ordinance for water utilities share some basic features:
  • A description of the frequency and magnitude of supply deficiencies and current capacity limitation. Including an assessment of the ability of the water supplier to maintain delivery during long-term drought or other source shortages;
  • Stages of alert for water shortage or service difficulties.
  • A description of predetermined levels which will trigger the curtailment actions under each stage of alert
  • A list of specific standby water use curtailment actions for each stage of alert ranging from notice to the public of a potential alert, increasing through limiting nonessential water use, to rationing and/or loss of service at the critical alert stage.
The Department´s Model Ordinance is more detailed for specific actions and the Division 86 process is oriented more toward a decision making process.  One of the weaknesses of working on the decision making process when there is no impending shortage is that some cities will not commit to making the hard choices of rationing until they are completely out of water.

Agricultural Water Users
Irrigation Scheduling: 
Scientifically determine when to irrigate and how much to apply.  Most irrigation systems have the capacity to apply too much water early in a season.  Scheduling helps you get the best use out of your irrigation water.  For more information, contact your local Natural Resource Conservation District office, Soil and Water Conservation District, or OSU Extension Agent.
Apply the Water Uniformly: 
  • Sprinkler Systems:  This requires correct nozzle size, sprinkler spacing, and system pressure.  Check all nozzles for wear and replace worn ones.  Avoid irrigation during periods of high wind and temperature.  During each application, apply the greatest depth of water that’s possible without runoff.  Inspect for leaks.
  • Surface Irrigation:  Move the water quickly across the field.  Irrigate every other furrow.  Irrigate on the "hard" rows compacted by tractor traffic.  Probe the soil to keep track of the "wetted front" to determine irrigation effectiveness.  Reuse water by collecting runoff water at the end of the field and pumping it back into a tailwater reuse pit at the top of the field.  Water savings can be between 30 and 60%.
Change Cropping Patterns: 
If possible, substitute shorter-season crops into your rotation.  Some crops like wheat, barley, rye, and some vegetables need water only early in the season.  Or consider crops with a shorter growing season, such as shorter season corn varieties.  Don’t over extend your water supply.  Plant only the land you can cover with your irrigation water supply.  Do not over fertilize crops in a drought - they will suffer damage and reduced yields when water is short.

Commercial/Industrial Water Users
Water Conservation Program: 
If a program does not already exist, start one.  Contact your municipal water supplier for assistance and advice.  Assign water usage monitors.  Adjust water flows in industrial processes to save water.
Install Water Recycling Equipment: 
Water intensive uses, such as car washes and cooling systems should install permanent water recycling equipment.
Raise Summer Time Building Temperatures: 
Set minimum temperatures to 75°F for evaporative cooling systems unless the equipment recirculates water.
Reuse Waste Water: 
Use treated waste water for industrial processes and landscape watering.

Other Links