Farmers near Bend, Ore., need water. And when the Crooked River is high, water flows to them by gravity through an intricately engineered system of canals. But those canals have a problem: the fractured volcanic ground under them drains water very effectively. In fact, half of what leaves the river never makes it to farmers.
The Statesman Journal details the problem, farmers don’t like this situation. Environmental groups like it even less, because to replace the liquid lost in transit, farmers are forced to draw even more heavily, pumping extra Crooked River water. But the pumps create high summertime water temperatures, effectively boiling any fish that try to get past the pumps and head upstream. Plus, the electricity the pumps require costs farmers plenty.
The Deschutes River Conservancy and the farmer-run North Unit Irrigation District are working together on a surprisingly simple solution. They are lining part of the canal system with concrete, and replacing other parts of it with pipelines. This will bring water to farmers more effectively and waste less, thus allowing fish to resume their habitat in the Crooked River. Everybody’s happy. And both the River Conservancy and the Irrigation District say they want to work together again in the future.
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