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Houses lose well water

State hydrogeologist Ned Gates exits a domestic well after checking water levels at a property on Dehlinger Lane on Thursday afternoon.

August 12, 2005

HILL ROAD - Some taps are spitting out only drops of water, and some nothing at all, in houses along Hill Road near Merrill.

A combination of dry years and increased irrigation pumping has caused the water table to drop about 3.5 feet in each of the past three summers, a state worker said.

"It's been kind of stair-stepping down," said Ned Gates, a hydrogeologist for the Oregon Water Resources Department.

To get water back in some residential wells, irrigators near Hill Road have stopped pumping for the year.

The wells are part of the mid-Basin pumping group, a cluster of wells throughout the middle of the Klamath Reclamation Project whose 31 owners divided $900,000 from the government to pump this year.

"We are not (pumping) in any places where there have been any impacts," said Jim Carleton, one of the pumpers.

The year 2001 is an important one on the calendar for well water use in the Klamath Basin. Not only does it mark the year that the federal government shut off water to the Klamath Reclamation Project for much of the summer, prompting many irrigators to dig for water, but also it marks the top of the water table after wet years in the late 1990s.

Although the federal government has filled the canals every summer since, it is now also paying people to pump. As part of the "water bank" bank program, the Bureau signs contracts with irrigators to have them either use well water instead of canal water or to add well water to the canal. The goal of the bank is to boost flows down the Klamath River for coho salmon.

Hill Road winds through agricultural land and past many irrigation pumps.

"Remember a lot of these wells didn't exist until 2001," Gates said. "That's what all this is in response to."

In late July homes along and near Hill Road have been having wells go "dry," making cooking, washing and watering a hassle.

"Sometimes you'll be taking a shower and it will just stop," said Jill Mathis, who lives with her parents on Hill Road near Dehlinger Lane.

On July 31, neighbors on Dehlinger Lane saw their water pretty much stop.

"We (had) about a pencil-width of water coming out of our tap," said Robin Torgersen.

Thursday, Gates came to check on the well to see if it was dry. He comes from Bend every other month in the summer to get readings from wells that he has been monitoring since 2001.

He also looks into well problems such as the Torgensens reported.

Gates dropped 40 feet of cord down their well.


"Ope ... there's water," he said.


The electric gizmo at the end of the cord had been submerged, completing a circuit and triggering the alarm at the top of the well.

Many of the wells Gates checks have water in them, but the pumps aren't deep enough. The waterless homeowners will either have to have their pump lowered or wait for the water table to come back up.

The Torgensens are likely to have water again this summer because irrigation pumps near them have been shut off and the water table is rebounding. Now they are weighing what to do with their well.

If the water table keeps going down, they said, they will have to have the pump placed deeper, as they did in 2001. But, they said, the pump is as deep as they can get it without widening the well.

In the meantime, the Torgensens have a backup plan.

They spent $400 on a 1,000-gallon green plastic water reservoir and are using it and gravity to put water through their tap.




Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM  Pacific

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