Despite a fight from neighbors, an irrigation canal piping project has cleared legal hurdles and is beginning to replace leaky open canals with heavy duty plastic pipes.
The Arnold Irrigation District is piping nearly 12 miles of its main canal in southeast Bend, an improvement that’s expected to save millions of gallons of water per year.
“We’ve laid I think 3,000 of the 20,000 linear feet of pipe,” said Steve Johnson, manager of the Arnold Irrigation District.
Phase One of the piping project is starting near the middle of the district’s 12 mile long main canal.
Forty-eight inch diameter, high density poly ethylene pipe is being placed in the original canal in some places, or in a new ditch in other areas, welded together and then covered.
The reason: Save water. Lots of water.
“During irrigation season, the amount we don’t need anymore because we’ve piped, we don’t have the seepage loss any longer, we get by with less from the river. That will leave additional supply to junior irrigation districts particularly North Unit in Madras,” Johnson said.
The Deschutes River Conservancy is “very happy to see that project moving forward. The first phase is going to save 11.2 cubic feet per second that will be protected in the upper Deschutes River in the winter,” said Kate Fitzpatrick, executive director.
The canals the irrigation districts deliver water through are built into volcanic geology that lose up to 50% of the water into the ground.
Water that is saved by piping the canals can be left in the river, and repurposed.
“In addition to the projects Arnold is doing, we also have projects by Lone Pine Irrigation District, North Unit and Central Oregon Irrigation District that should culiminate in another 150 CFS additional protected flow in the upper Deschutes River.”
When all phases of Arnold Irrigation District’s piping project are complete, the savings will amount to three billion gallons of water a year.
Johnson said the savings represent nearly 75% of the City of Bend’s demand for water on a yearly basis.
Total project costs are estimated at $34.8 million of which $26.2 million is paid through Natural Resources Conservation Service Watershed Protection and Flood Protection Act. The remaining $8.7 million will be paid by Arnold Irrigation District with funding from state water conservation programs.