Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Well shutdowns: Impacts too early to tell. Two municipal, 10 privately owned wells ordered to limit or curtail use
Regulation on municipal wells will not negatively affect Klamath Falls residents just yet, state water managers said Friday.“The regulation is not for human consumption. We are not shutting down the wells,” said Scott White, watermaster for the Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRD) office in Klamath Falls. “The wells are limited to ‘only human consumption.’ ”
Two municipal water wells and 10 privately owned wells were ordered to limit or curtail pumping after the Bureau of Reclamation made a call for water on behalf of the Klamath Irrigation District this week.City Manager Nathan Cherpeski said it is too early to tell what, if any, physical impact the shutoff orders will have on the city wells. He said one well is part of an integrated municipal water delivery system, making it difficult to say, “OK, just shut it off.”
“It’s up in the air how big an impact this will have,” Cherpeski said.One of the wells is high in manganese and only provides supplementary water to the city; however, the other serves the northern end of the city, including Sky Lakes Medical Center and the Oregon Institute of Technology, according to The Associated Press. One well is located near the southeast end of Upper Klamath Lake. The other is east of the lake near Cove Point. The BOR’s water call was submitted the last week in May. After the call was verified, water shutoff notices were sent to more than 200 water-right holders in the Basin.
The Klamath Project’s water right dates to 1905.According to Sheryl Franklin, the BOR Klamath Basin Area Office manager, Project irrigators have approximately 140,000 acre-feet for the remaining irrigation season.
Franklin said the supply should be enough to get Project irrigators through the season, although Klamath Project Warren Act contractors may receive limited deliveries.Tribal call impacts
White explained that city well regulation does not benefit the Klamath Tribes, who made a call for their time immemorial rights this week. According to White, water calls are made only for areas upstream of water-right holders.“It wouldn’t do any good to regulate the city for the tribal call,” he said.
The Tribes’ call affects tributaries of the Williamson, Wood, Sycan and Sprague rivers. As of Friday, the only stream regulated for the tribal call is Sand Creek, according to White. He said he expects to complete the Tribes call validation early next week.Klamath Tribes Chairman Don Gentry said the Tribes are calling for instream flows specified in the recently signed Upper Klamath Basin Comprehensive Agreement. The pact, part of a Basin-wide legislative bill being reviewed in the Senate, stipulates landowners near upper Basin drainages to collectively return 5,000 acre-feet to the watershed.
If instream flows and other ecological conditions of the pact are met, impacts of water calls for within the pact region will be lessened and theoretically less devastating than 2013.“The ag community was expecting this,” Gentry said. “They were aware there would be calls on water.”
In areas outside those tributaries, the Tribes intend to make full calls, he added.Adjudication was first implemented in the Klamath Basin in 2013 after years of water conflict in the Basin. The state-governed process follows the “first in time, first in right” principle and assigns water priority based on property claims. The older the property claim date, the more senior the water right. Landowners with junior, or more recent claims, can be shutoff if a senior water right makes a claim to that water.
Cherpeski acknowledged that city and county officials need to begin developing policies to mitigate impacts of water shortages.“It’s more about the future of the Basin. We should think about the community and reducing water simply because we live in the desert,” he said.
More monitoringCherpeski believes the city can maintain deliveries for now, but he will probably recommend some kind of water curtailment to the City Council. He said Kit Carson Park will be dry again this year because it doesn’t have a water right.
Gentry noted the extreme dryness the Basin faces this year. He said once the Tribes’ upper Basin flow gages and monitoring systems are in place, calls could be made earlier in years similar to 2014. The Tribes water rights are year-round.According to Racquel Rancier, a spokeswoman for the OWRD, the department is still determining if other wells will be affected by regulation. At this time, OWRD is not aware of other wells within the city limits that would be subject to regulation, she said.
The Klamath Falls water division is responsible for 13 groundwater wells, 21 pumping stations, 22 water reservoirs and more than 250 miles of transmission and distribution mains including 1,026 fire hydrants, the city’s website email@example.com ; @LMJatHandN
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Page Updated: Sunday June 15, 2014 12:17 AM Pacific
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