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Bend, OR—Farmer’s alliances and irrigation districts across the state are finding new ways to protect water supplies—and save money—by updating aging infrastructure with funding from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and other partners.

DEQ recently provided more than $20 million in low-interest loans to Central Oregon, Tumalo and Dee Irrigation Districts to convert open irrigation canals or aging pipes to more efficient, modern enclosed pipes. These projects conserve water for agriculture, reduce operating costs and improve streamflow and water quality.

Much of Oregon’s irrigation infrastructure is between 75 and 100 years old and loses water to evaporation or seepage. DEQ offers loans to irrigation districts through its Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which has provided $57 million in loans to eight irrigation districts in central and eastern Oregon since 2004. Loans often provide the required match funds so districts can access other state and federal funding to complete their projects.

“DEQ’s loan program provides funding for projects that improve water quality and promote sustainability,” said Lee Ann Lawrence, Clean Water State Revolving Fund program coordinator. “Irrigation modernization projects have a very positive net water quality impact while also promoting energy efficiency—we’d like to support more projects like this across the state.”

Some irrigation modernization projects are also funded by the Energy Trust of Oregon to include small-scale hydropower systems that generate renewable energy with the irrigation flow.

“Investments in irrigation modernization mean farmers can assist in restoring and enhancing water quality, create clean, renewable energy, improve river habitat and recreational opportunities and grow the foods we love,” said Julie O’Shea, executive director of the Farmers Conservation Alliance. “We’re encouraged by the efforts of Oregon’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund to support this important work.”

Highlights of newly financed projects include:

• Central Oregon Irrigation District: DEQ’s initial loan of $2 million will help fund the design of a piping project to convert the 25-mile Pilot Butte Canal and 52-miles of adjoining side canals to enclosed, buried piping. A subsequent loan of $18 million will help fund final design and construction of the northern-most portion of the project, enclosing approximately 4.8 miles of main canal and 2.9 miles of side canals—a $40 million project overall. Once completed, the project will conserve water in streams, reduce power consumption of water pumps, and reduce the need for on-farm flood irrigation.

• Tumalo Irrigation District: A $2 million loan for the Tumalo Feed Canal Project will help enclose 8,750 feet of open irrigation canal, a project that will cost over $5 million and is one part of a larger effort. Senator Jeff Merkley joined the irrigation district to celebrate project progress at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on March 19. When complete, the project will eliminate the major seepage issues and return water to Tumalo Creek and Crescent Creek in the Deschutes Basin.

• Dee Irrigation District: DEQ is providing a $1 million loan for the Dee Irrigation District System Pressurization Project, which has a total project budget of approximately $3 million. The project will replace an old pipeline with new pressurized pipe, improving streamflow and water quality in the West Fork Hood River.

The Central Oregon, Tumalo and Dee projects are part of a statewide effort to modernize irrigation districts, led by the Farmers Conservation Alliance and Energy Trust of Oregon. The USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service is also a major funder, allocating $50 million over the next three years to help Oregon implement irrigation modernization and other watershed protects through the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act. The piping projects are also supported by the Oregon Water Resources Congress, Oregon Water Resources Department, the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Oregon Regional Solutions Program and individual patrons.

• DEQ’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund:
• Farmers Conservation Alliance:
• Energy Trust of Oregon:
• Central Oregon Irrigation District Modernization Project:
• USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Watershed Program:
• Oregon Water Resources Congress:

Contact: Laura Gleim, public affairs specialist,, 541-633-2030



Environment & Energy