Occasionally when the topic of adding housing in Bend comes up, someone asks: “where will all the water come from for these extra people? We live in a desert!”.
It’s certainly good to keep an eye on our natural resources and avoid squandering them. However, it turns out that cities and housing consume less water than agriculture. A lot less.
And denser, more compact cities consume even less water, which makes sense if you think about it. Ten homes in a three story apartment or condo building are going to need a lot less water than 10 homes spread out on large lots with big lawns.
The chart is from a report that’s a few years out of date, but the point stands: there’s a lot of room to grow “Municipal and Industrial” – especially if we really started to discourage things like wasteful lawns.
For an even more in-depth look at what water usage in the Deschutes River basin looks like, this report from Central Oregon Landwatch is an important read, that goes into some detail about how much water is wasted: https://www.centraloregonlandwatch.org/update/2021/5/5/drought-and-the-deschutes-looking-at-the-same-river-twice