Farmers Irrigation asks users to reduce water use

Farmers Irrigation District is making it official: keep your lawn brown for much-needed conservation of water.

“We are urging every user not to water their lawns. If you can let anything go dormant we would appreciate it,” said FID’s June Brock following Thursday’s emergency meeting of the FID board to discuss the low water in the district reservoirs and likely future measures such as user rotation.

“Our reservoir isn’t going to make it,” without immediate user cutbacks, said Jer Camarata, FID general manager. “We need to make some pretty aggressive moves now until we can make it through harvest. Otherwise the orchardists will be in pretty tough shape.”

The Hood River Board of Commissioners last week passed a drought declaration resolution, which is expected to be signed next week by Gov. Kate Brown. Hood River joins 20 other Oregon counties that have issued a drought declaration this year, including neighboring Wasco, Sherman and Gilliam counties.

The County hopes their formal declaration to the state will allow for smoother local water management, and will qualify Hood River County for state and federal grants.

At last week’s meeting, Barb Ayers, Hood River County Emergency Programs Manager, said “Every single forecast at the state and federal level shows this is a long-term drought.

“They’re our lowest levels since the early ‘80s and unless some miracle comes along, it’s not gonna go away soon.”

Ayers said the record low snowpack and stream levels affect agriculture and fire danger most profoundly. “What’s called ‘potable’ or drinking water is in good shape. But our irrigation districts are deeply concerned,” Ayers said.

Camarata said FID is reaching out to large users including schools, churches, and Hood River Goff Course, to conserve as much as possible.

“We are asking our community to help our orchardists,” Camarata said.

FID draws from the Kingsley reservoirs, west of Hood River. The lower reservoir is half way down, Camarata noted, explaining that the district keeps the upper reservoir full and then draws down to the lower one as needed.

“People go to the upper reservoir on the weekend and it looks full,” he said. “We’ll bring water from rom the upper to the lower soon and people will see that change pretty dramatically.”

Camarata also asked that FID residents who see water being spread inefficiently — onto roads or sidewalks, or at times other than mornings or evenings — to call FID, which will then speak with the offender.

“We hope that peer pressure will kick in and we can get through this,” he said.

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