Growth threatens water
H&N photo by
Greg Addington of the Klamath Water
Users Association stands near Lower
Klamath Lake and the mouth of the A
March 1, 2007 Herald
Add climate change and urbanization to the
list of forces threatening to reduce
agriculture's water supply.
Both were topics of
concern last week during the Family Farm
Alliance's annual meeting in Las Vegas.
“Urbanization and competition for water
supplies are driving Western farmers off the
land at a time when American food production
in general is following other industries
off-shore in search of lower costs,” Alliance
President Patrick O'Toole said.
Director Dan Keppen of Klamath Falls said
increasingly dry weather and population growth
is affecting Klamath Basin farmers, too,
although development isn't on pace with
Colorado's Front Range. That state lost an
average of 460 agriculture acres per day from
1987 to 2002, Keppen said.
He suggested an assessment be made of impacts
to agricultural land and water in Western
states during the past decade.
“A study of this sort may provide the type of
hard findings that can help wake up policy
makers to the big picture importance of this
issue,” Keppen said.
More than 1,500 acres in Klamath Falls and
Klamath County are being developed as
subdivisions within the planning stages.
Keppen says that's more competition for
already scarce water. Measure 37, which makes
it easier to subdivide property, will only
exacerbate the situation, he said.
Greg Addington, executive director of the
Klamath Water Users Association, said
urbanization's effects don't show up
immediately. But he said growth and its
effects on the water table is one of many
factors in water supply for irrigators.
He noted the trend
toward warmer weather, saying irrigators'
primary storage of water is the mountain
snowpack. That snow is melting earlier than in
past years, Addington said, and precipitation
more often comes as rain instead of snow.
Biological opinions dictating Upper Klamath
Lake levels and flow rates for the Klamath
River override everything. The opinions come
from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Addington said irrigators are frustrated that
the matrix gives them less water in
average-water years than in low-water years.
“It's mind boggling,”
he said. “You might as well throw darts at a
- Steve Kadel