News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Using water wisely in Sisters

Summer has arrived, and this week the temperatures are forecast to be in the 90s. The slash pad at Fir Street Park will be busy providing cool water for the kids to play in. Water in that splash pad gets treated and recycled rather than draining away into the sewer.

That recycling is just one way the City is using its water wisely, which is what they are encouraging Sisters residents to do to reduce water waste.

Some citizens have expressed confusion, some frustration, some anger that they are being asked to use less water. Some think conservation is being promoted to allow enough water for the new building going on in Sisters.

City Manager Cory Misley told The Nugget, “Nothing tells us we are running out of water. With our system development charges (SDCs), growth pays for growth. Developers are required to pay SDCs for the water they will need. If a new well is required, those SDCs help finance its construction. If land is annexed into the City, developers are required to pay for water mitigation.”

Misley went on to say “All natural resources are finite. We are protecting our water for today and tomorrow by encouraging using water smarter. Our purpose right now has to do with peak summer usage, mainly due to irrigation.”

We live in the High Desert with an annual rainfall of about 14 inches a year. Sisters’ water supply comes from groundwater fed by rainfall, snowpack, and glaciers on the Three Sisters. The water levels in the City of Sisters water supply wells fluctuate over time in sync with the long-term climate cycles. There will be periods when the water levels in the City’s wells rise and periods when the water levels will be falling. Although the aquifer in the vicinity of Sisters shows large swings in water levels, the aquifer system is a robust groundwater resource that officials believe will provide a sustainable long-term supply for the City.

The City’s position is that wise use of water now will pay dividends with adequate water for years to come. Because of climate change, everyone everywhere should be practicing wise water usage.

The biggest opportunity for water savings is from more efficient irrigation practices. Some ways to join wise conservation efforts this summer include:

• Water during the cool part of the day to minimize water lost to evaporation. Early morning hours (4 to 8 a.m.) are the best, and the peak water consumption hours (4 to 9 p.m.) should be avoided. Avoid watering during midday hours when it is hot and sunny to prevent scalding the turf. Avoid watering during rainy or windy weather conditions.

• Don’t overwater. Lawns need less water than you might think. Once or twice a week is generally sufficient.

• Check for and fix leaks in irrigation lines, sprinkler heads, outdoor spigots, and inside faucets — even a slow drip adds up to a lot of wasted water.

• Adjust sprinkler heads to prevent runoff on the driveway, sidewalk, patio, or street. Runoff can also be a sign that you are applying too much water too quickly.

• Rethink your landscape. Replace all or part of your lawn with native or low-water-use plants. Use the Water-Wise Gardening in Central Oregon guide to help you at

• Use a hose timer or install a weather-based irrigation system controller or a soil moisture sensor to prevent overwatering.

• Keep soil moist by adding mulch around plants to help the ground retain soil moisture.


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