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Answer to dry water year: conserve
Project irrigators urged to be cautious with the water they have
by SAMANTHA TIPLER, Herald and News 4/13/13
The first three months this year have been the driest the Klamath Basin has seen since 1955. The snowpack stood at only 63 percent of normal Thursday.
“It’s out of our control,” said Jason Phillips, area manager of the Bureau of Reclamation Klamath Basin Office. “We just manage the best we can for what we have.”
At the annual meeting of the Klamath Water Users Association, Phillips urged project irrigators to do just that — be conservative with the water they have.
“If the demand from the project is at or below 2012 and 2011, then we’ll probably have a 40,000 acre-foot shortage,” he said. “I think that’s something we can accomplish.”
He urged irrigators to participate in programs like those offered by Klamath Water and Power Agency as well as save as much in their own operations as possible.
“If you’re able to conserve an acre foot, it’s an acre foot less you or your neighbor have to pump out of the ground,” he said.
Analyzing the supply side of the water equation, Phillips gave the snowpack for the same day (April 11) back to 2008. Every year it was above 100 percent of normal. In 2011, Phillips’ first year in the Basin, it was 173 percent of normal. Even in the “disaster year” of 2010, Phillips said snowpack stood at 102 percent of normal. Those numbers stood in stark contrast to the 63 percent this year.
Looking at total water supply for the year, Phillips said only 1991, 1992 and 1993 have been as dry as 2013.
Phillips said the Natural Resource Conservation Service estimates the minimum amount of water supply coming from Upper Klamath Lake will be 293,000 acre feet.
Given that, the real question is what the demand will be. Even though much of the demand happens in May and June, the total demand picture isn’t clear until June or July, he said.
“People who’ve been operating in the Basin for their entire lives will tell you, you just don’t know what the demand will be,” he said.
Given that unknown, he urged water users to continue to conserve as they have in the past.
“This year, it is really critical that we, wherever measures make sense for you and your operation to, conserve, just do it,” he said. “It’s going to help.”
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H&N photo by Samantha Tipler
Jason Phillips, area manager of the Bureau of Reclamation Klamath Basin Office, speaks at the annual meeting of the Klamath Water Users Association Thursday evening.
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