Protecting the Deschutes River Basin
The Deschutes River has been described as the “queen of North American trout streams,” and with good reason. The Deschutes is a stronghold for wild redside trout. The lower river contains significant runs of salmon and steelhead. Tributaries like the Metolius River contain some of the last, best refuges for threatened bull trout in Oregon.
The Deschutes River and its tributaries are central to the economy and quality of life in Central Oregon and the state as a whole. However, irrigation withdrawals and dams have taken a heavy toll on river flows in the Deschutes for years.
Today the river and its tributaries face enormous pressure from Central Oregon’s increasing demand for water. Because surface water was fully allocated decades ago, developers have turned to pumping groundwater. But in the Deschutes, new groundwater development directly reduces surface flows, including flows protected by the Instream Water Rights Act and Oregon’s State Scenic Waterways law.
WaterWatch has been involved in water issues facing the Deschutes for many years. We monitor groundwater development and are a party to the settlement agreement resulting in better river flows, and the reintroduction of salmon and steelhead above the Pelton Round Butte Dams.
Our long-term goals in the Deschutes are to:
- restore streamflows to the Deschutes and its tributaries to support a healthy ecosystem;
- preserve the outstanding biological, scenic and recreational values of the river system;
- ensure that the salmon and steelhead that are being reintroduced above the Pelton Round Butte dam
- have the streamflows they need to thrive; and
- protect streamflows from the impacts of growth and groundwater development.