(Update: added video, comments from Central Oregon Irrigation District)
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) — As central Oregon dries up, water prices for the Central Oregon Irrigation District are rising.
Craig Horrell, managing director of COID, said they are raising the price because their hydroelectric contracts are not being renewed.
“The board deliberated on this for three years on this rate increase hoping that we could find a solution,” Horrell said.
Horrell said more companies are switching from hydro to solar or wind, and they’re not able to keep up with the prices.
“We don’t see the rates we had 30 years ago on those contracts when they were signed,” Horrell said.
Horrell said COID has been able to keep prices low for so long because hydropower revenues could offset maintenance costs.
Over the next four years, land prices over and under one acre will increase by almost $50 per year.
But Horrell always promises competitive prices.
“With these rate increases, COID will always maintain the lowest cost of water in the basin,” Horrell said.
Horrell said he understands how difficult raising can be, especially during a drought.
“They’re not getting their water, they’re not able to produce the crops that they normally have, they’re not getting the yields with less water,” Horrell said. “The board took all of this into consideration, and they just couldn’t wait any longer.
However, he said, with low water levels, whether they supply 60% or 100% of the water, the cost of labor is firm.
“It costs the same, if not more,” Horrell said. “Droughts tend to force our staff to work harder.”
He said he and the board were not happy with the timing of this increase, but they would do what they had to.
“We’ll do our best to continue into next year to make sure our customers get their water, as much as they can,” Horrell said.
The district hopes to secure more hydropower contracts in the future and possibly offset some of these costs again.