History of The Deschutes Valley Water District 1


Gary LytleInformation about the history and operation of the Deschutes Valley Water District was provided by their website. Additional edits were provided by staff of the facility. Please learn more about them at their website: www.DVWD.org

Deschutes Valley Water District was formed in 1919 from a private water system, Jefferson Water Company which was formed sometime after the turn of the century. This private company could not achieve a profitable return, so they chartered the District we have today under the Oregon Revised Statutes, Chapter 264. The signatures on the original charter are a “who’s who” of the pioneers of the Culver-Metolius area.

The original service area included the City of Culver, the City of Metolius, and the surrounding agricultural areas south of Juniper Butte to the north end of Metolius. Opal Springs had been the sole source of domestic water since the inception of the District, and in 1997 the first of 3 artesian wells were drilled. However, Opal Springs was privately owned until the District purchased it in 1958.

The distribution of water throughout the rural area was not feasible in the the 1920’s because of the sparse population. Prior to piping the water, a small concrete reservoir was located on the canyon rim above Opal Springs. Water was hauled from the reservoir in wood staved barrels on horse drawn buckboards. Later, the District installed a wooden mainline to a standpipe in the city of Culver. There, residents from outlying areas could fill tanks to transport home. A single 3″ pipeline also served the City of Metolius and its outlying areas.

With the formation and completion of the North Unit Irrigation project, the Culver/Metolius/Madras areas were broken into 80 to 160 acre parcels and a massive influx of farmers followed in the mid 1940’s. This sudden population growth required the District to install many new mainlines to distribute domestic water to the newly formed farms. During this same period, the area north of Madras (called the Plains) formed a water district to accomplish the same tasks in that area.

In 1948, The Plains Water District and Deschutes Valley Water District merged to form the approximate boundaries we have today. The conveyance of water over such a long distance (23.6 miles) presented many problems that required lengthy District board meetings to solve. The District has been fortunate to have faithful and responsible Board members over the years. The District struggled to deliver service to its customer base due to undersized and leaky mainlines for many years.

The most important milestone in District history was the purchase of Opal Springs in 1958. Prior to the purchase of Opal Springs, inefficiencies in the transport of water had prevented the District from meeting customer demand. The purchase, modifications, new pump house, and discharge lines became a repetitive cycle to meet this demand. The process includes installing pumping capacity, discharge lines, storage, and then distribution lines. By the time a cycle is finished, new and improved facilities are required and the cycle begins anew.

In 1985, a small (3-6MegaWatt) hydro power facility was integrated into the facility at Opal Springs. Currently, any time a hydro facility is created this would trigger a requirement for fish passage. However, in 1982 when the facility received its FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) license, fish passage was not required due to passage barriers downstream. Hydro power revenue has been a critical addition to create a sustainable model for growth and maintenance to the service area and district assets.

Historically, whenever possible, new construction is done by District crews. In 1995, additional personnel were hired so the District could keep up with recent growth, 12.2 miles of pipe were installed and two tank foundations with piping were constructed.

Other new construction projects have included a shop, a warehouse, a reservoir by the KOA campgrounds, and (at Opal Springs) a pump house. Projects for 2000-2005 included, roughly 45 miles of new distribution piping, a 24″ transmission main from the main reservoirs to Madras (16.5 mi. long), a 3 million gallon reservoir at Round Butte. In 2012, a 4.5 million gallon reservoir located above Opal Springs was installed.

This facility also provides municipal potable water to over 4,100 metered customers in the surrounding area, in addition transmission of water to Madras (900 metered customers) and the reservoir at Round Butte. This provides stability of water delivery to Jefferson County residents throughout the Crooked River Basin. At this time the District encompasses nearly 130 square miles.


Leave a comment

One thought on “History of The Deschutes Valley Water District