Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Lake inflow, groundwater both falling
Published May 6, 2004
Inflow to Upper Klamath Lake has faltered in
recent weeks, thwarting the hopes of federal water
managers to fill the lake to capacity as
irrigation season approaches its peak of activity.
The lake's water
surface was measured Friday at 4,152.65 feet above
sea level, or more than a half-foot below
capacity. If the lake had filled, there would be
about another 50,000 acre-feet of water available,
or enough to cover 50,000 acres with a foot of
But that forecast has
been trimmed by more than 20 percent following
unusually warm and dry weather during April.
"I don't know how
this year will turn out," Sabo said Wednesday.
"We can't live this
way - this is killing us," he said.
The plan is designed
to avoid predicaments like the one the Bureau
found itself in last June.
But Sabo said that
wouldn't mean the Project would have to be shut
down. He said the Bureau would be able to get some
flexibility in lake level requirements from the
Fish and Wildlife Service.
"I'm sure that is
what kept the lake from going into the critical
range," he said.
For this year, the
Bureau has 50,000 acre-feet of groundwater under
contract, Sabo said.
The permits give
irrigators authority to use groundwater if their
primary source of water, usually Project canal
water, is short.
groundwater is not the Bureau officials' first
choice for providing extra water this year.
The combined effects
of several dry years in a row and increased use of
wells is taking a toll on groundwater supplies,
The Oregon Water
Resources Department, along with the U.S.
Geological Survey and the California Department of
Water Resources, is working on a study about
groundwater in the Basin that should be out late
But the drop in
groundwater isn't restricted to areas were pumping
Dan Keppen, executive
director of the Klamath Water Users Association,
said irrigators are having to switch to
groundwater because the Project water they had
always depended isn't always available.
Demands for water
increased following the release of a biological
opinion that strengthened protection for coho
salmon in the lower Klamath River.
Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM Pacific
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