First Week of Irrigation Season Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: COID turned the water on in the Pilot Butte Canal on the 5th of April and today is the 7th, why don’t I see my water yet?
A: When we put water into the main canals it is not like a faucet and “instant water” everywhere, it is a balancing act with the river. We work closely with the Oregon Water Resources Department on this process. It is called a ramp up process where we must gradually begin to fill our canals from the river diversion points so that a large fluctuation does not occur in the Deschutes River. Therefore, if you are in the Terrebonne area, it will take 2 to 3 days from the date we turn the water into the Pilot Butte Canal until you see water in your area. Same is so with the Central Oregon Canal.

Q: I am on a rotation and my schedule says my rotation starts today, April 12th at 12:30 p.m. and I do not have water in my ditch, what do I do?
A: When the rotation schedules are generated, we do not know exactly when water will make it to each of our patrons, so all rotation schedules have the same start date. Since we are in the first week of irrigation water being released into the main canal systems. You may have to wait until the water has filled the entire main canal to take your water during your next rotation time. If your headgate has not been opened, please call the office and the request will be sent to your patrolman.

Q: As soon as I have water can I start irrigating?
A: The Ramp Up process at the beginning of the season is set by Oregon Water Resources Department and we gradually increase the flow until it is running at 50% until April 30th. Starting May 1st it is bumped up to 75% until May 14th. On May 15th it is then at 100% until September 15th (dependent on water available/water shortages). Then in the fall the ramp down process begins. So the short answer is, at the beginning of irrigation season you can fill ponds and put water in your systems and irrigate as the water is available but remember you will not have your full flow until mid-May.

Q: My headgate is not open and I am not getting water, what do I do?
A: Please call the office at 541-548-6047 and we will get a request order out to your patrolman to get your headgate opened.

2023 Drought Frequently Asked Questions

Will my water use be restricted this year due to drought?

COID is expecting a water year like 2022; however, it is impossible to predict live flow and how it translates to reductions or deliveries. As drought conditions continue, please prepare for a water reduction (curtailment) to in July.

How does the curtailment notification process work?

Notifications will be communicated through the following:

  • Text alerts (Sign up today: Text “COID” to 541-348-7322)
  • Facebook @CentralOregonIrrigation
  • Email (sign up at info@coid.org)
  • Posted to coid.org

Where does the COID get its water supply?

COID’s water supply comes from natural (live) streamflow from the Deschutes River and supplemental storage from Crane Prairie Reservoir.

What is live flow?

Live flow is what the river is running at any time based on natural conditions (snowmelt, rain, dry weather).

Why is COID turning on in April during a drought? Shouldn’t it be left in the system for later use?

COID typically turns on between April 1-10. During this time, the District uses live flow that would otherwise be going over the Dam. All Deschutes Basin irrigation districts begin their operations in April. COID brings into its system about 50% of its peak flow during start up. The water used during start up is primarily live flow water that cannot be stored or otherwise held for future use.

Why are COID canals full during a drought?

A full canal is a product of how COID moves water through a very antiquated 100 + year old system. One canal may be full, while another might have significantly reduced amounts. COID has a system of 400 miles of laterals. The District is constantly moving water through the laterals. A full canal means water is moving where it needs to be.

Because COID is primarily a gravity-fed system, many of the canals are required to be at a certain elevation to ensure that water is distributed throughout the district. COID, like most other districts that rely on gravity to distribute water, uses a series of checks or dams to raise the level of the canals. The level of the water in the canal is not always an accurate indicator of the flow.

What does it mean for COID to be a senior water right holder?

COID’s primary water rights are senior and highly reliable. The older and more senior water rights, as indicated by priority date, have first access to available water in times of shortages and drought. This means that the first to obtain a water right on a stream is the last to have the water shut off in times of low streamflows.

COID’s water supply comes from natural streamflow from the Deschutes River and supplemental storage from Crane Prairie Reservoir. Unlike some districts that mainly rely on stored water, COID generally only relies on stored water only in the shoulder seasons.

What is COID doing to help junior water right holders like North Unit Irrigation District (NUID)?

On December 7, 2017, COID and NUID entered into a water sharing agreement. The agreement outlines the districts’ commitment to incorporate all the tools at their disposal to share water, allowing NUID to leave more water in the river during the winter.

Since 2014, COID has completed four conserved water projects equating to 45 cfs of water that will go to NUID during the irrigation season. These projects include the Siphon Power Project, Smith Rock-King Way, and F and I laterals.

COID’s conservation measures are generating a more reliable water supply for NUID. NUID can then make water available from its storage in Wickiup Reservoir to increase winter flows in the Upper Deschutes River.

How does COID operate its system?

COID operates two main canals using water from the Deschutes River. The Central Oregon Canal (COC) serves the areas of Alfalfa, Bend, and Powell Butte; and the Pilot Butte Canal (PBC) serves the areas of Bend, Redmond, and Terrebonne; both are mainly unlined canals running water through heavily fractured basalt. The COC diversion is at the south city limits of Bend, Oregon. That canal runs from its diversion on the Deschutes River through the Siphon Power Plant. The Siphon Power Plant was commissioned in 1989 and produces an estimated average generation of 25 million kilowatt-hours per year. The water then travels from the Siphon Power Plant through canals to patrons.

The PBC is mainly an unlined open canal running 42 miles in length itself, much of it running through heavily fractured basalt. There is a small section of the PBC through the city limits of Redmond that was piped in 2005 for a Highway 97 reroute, a 2.5-mile section just north of Bend was piped in 2009/2010 to conserve water and a newly modernized 7.9-mile section in the Smith Rock area was completed in 2022.

What is COID doing to eliminate water waste in the system?

Due to the nature of open canals, COID must withdraw nearly double the amount of water needed to compensate for the seepage loss. COID is focused on large-scale piping projects, which can be combined with voluntary efforts by landowners who undertake on-farm improvements. Water saved from seepage below and evaporation above can now go to the farm or stay in the river to help support wildlife conservation. In spring of 2022, COID completed Phase 1 of the Pilot Butte Canal Piping Project, immediately conserving 30 cfs and creating operating efficiencies for over 300 patrons. Additionally, over time the project will save an additional 30-40 cfs.

 What is COID doing to conserve water?

  • Water marketing that allows for more legal options to move water between districts.
  • Large piping projects that create significant water savings to benefit farmers, the Deschutes River, and endangered species.
  • On-farm and past the Point of Delivery conservation projects.
  • Working with legislators to provide financial relief for our farmers experiencing drought.

 If I don’t use my irrigation water will I lose it?

Just not using the water will not lead to abandonment; there must be an intent to abandon the right. For a water user to keep their water right, they must put the water to “beneficial use,” which in the case of irrigation water means producing a crop, or maintaining grass or landscaped areas without waste, once every five consecutive years

 How does the Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) benefit patrons?

Despite extreme and persistent drought conditions, adherence to the HCP means that irrigation districts are authorized to continue to access what limited water supplies are available during times of drought, and district patrons can rely on these supplies with confidence based on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s approval of the HCP. Without the HCP, irrigation districts and their patrons would be at risk of further water shut-offs and endless court battles, whether the lawsuits are brought by the Federal government or third-party citizen groups.

Unlike some other basins in the West, the HCP provides some water supply protections. In 2021, District patrons were able to access much of their live flow and stored water supplies that were available even with the drought, while simultaneously supporting fish and wildlife habitat and remaining in compliance with the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This was not an accidental or unanticipated outcome of the HCP. Rather, it was something the districts, their regional partners, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spent 12 years planning for.

The possibility of a drought is something the Districts recognized and painstakingly accounted for in the design of the HCP. The Districts now coordinate water management in real-time with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and this coordination has made it possible to utilize the limited amount of water available for the mutual benefit of farmers, fish, and wildlife. Without this coordinated management, conditions for all concerned would be much worse.

The collective effort that resulted in the HCP has opened the door to many millions of dollars of investments in the modernization of basin infrastructure. It’s this same collective effort that is needed to secure drought relief, facilitate voluntary water right transfers between farmers, and generate support and funding for larger-scale water management projects that benefit both farmers and ranchers and fish and wildlife.

What does a state drought declaration mean for water right holders?

A state drought declaration allows the Water Resources Department to offer certain tools to water right holders in a drought-declared county. These tools provide expedited review processes, reduced fee schedules, and are intended to be short-term emergency authorizations, not permanent solutions to deal with water supply challenges. Water right holders seeking long-term solutions should first contact their irrigation district watermaster to help identify what options may exist.

What are the drought conditions?

The U.S. Drought Monitor shows all of Crook County in the most extreme level of drought and roughly half of Deschutes and Jefferson counties at the same extreme level.

What is drought?

Drought refers to a phenomenon in which dry conditions and lack of precipitation – whether it is rain, snow, or sleet – occur over certain areas for a period of time, resulting in a water shortage.

Most of Oregon’s water supply comes from precipitation in the form of rain and snowfall. When there is little precipitation for prolonged periods, drought conditions arise, and water becomes scarce.

What evidence is there of a drought?

The region is still recovering from multiple years of drought. Under such severe drought conditions, experts believe it may take consecutive La Nina winters to recover.

  • Natural springs are showing declines compared to historical norms, and reservoirs are all at record lows.
  • Reservoirs are at the lowest on record and dropping.
  • We currently have much less snow than we had the past two years at this time. The amount of snow water equivalent currently measured at all our locations is significantly lower than what was measured at this time last year.
  • The extended weather forecast for Central Oregon projects above-average temperatures, below-average precipitation, and very low soil moisture levels.

Isn’t this drought just part of Oregon’s “normal” cycle?

According to Larry O’Neill, an associate professor at the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University, most if not all of the drought indicators suggest the last several years have cumulatively been the worst drought for Central Oregon in recorded history, going back to 1895.

What role does snowpack play in a drought?

Snowpack is one indicator of how much water will be available in the region in the spring and throughout the irrigation season. Snowmelt from accumulated snowpack is an important source of water for people and ecosystems. In 2021, high spring and early summer temperatures eliminated the above-normal snowpack achieved during the winter resulting in little to no snowmelt runoff.

What are drought triggers?

A drought trigger is the specific value of a drought indicator that activates a management response. For example, a drought trigger could be a reservoir decreasing below 50% of its storage capacity.

What happens to aquifer levels during a drought?

It all depends upon the rate of withdrawal. Generally, you can expect groundwater aquifers to decline during drought due to increased pumping to offset lower precipitation, increased heat, and reduced groundwater recharge.

Why aren’t water rights prioritized to go to high-value crops?

When it comes to water use, Oregon state law does not favor certain crops over others or favor a particular kind of farming operation over another. State law also does not dictate that a water user must generate a certain amount of income from his or her water use.

Whether a landowner is growing industrial hemp, carrot seed, or a hay crop, so long as irrigation water is used to grow a crop, the districts do not have the legal authority to make value judgments around whether the use of water by particular landowners are sufficiently productive.

Who monitors drought conditions in Oregon?

The National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) is a multi-agency partnership that coordinates drought monitoring, forecasting, planning, and information for states including Oregon. Irrigation districts also monitor drought conditions by using data provided by various agencies and also by monitoring conditions within their own watersheds.

Where can I find more information about the drought in Oregon?

The Oregon Water Resources Department maintains a drought website that provides the status of current water conditions and state drought declarations, as well as information on what you: can do to use water wisely. Visit the drought website at


What are irrigation districts doing to promote drought resilience and water conservation for the long-term?

Many of the districts are stuck with wildly inefficient systems that were built over 100 years ago. The districts are focused on updating the antiquated irrigation infrastructure in a way that does the most good for farmers, the community, and the environment. This includes securing critical infrastructure investments to increase water reliability and implementing incentive-based programs to encourage water users to make choices in favor of conservation.

Irrigation Management with Limited Water: Stretching Irrigation Water Supplies