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Klamath Basin Water Distribution Update

October 2018

The Department has a new web page design, and we hope the new design will make it easier to locate information and be more user-friendly, particularly on mobile devices.  The site still contains the stream location, status of calls for water by senior users, whether regulation for water distribution has occurred, and the date of priority to which junior water rights are not allowed to be diverting water.  If you are experiencing difficulty finding information, please give the watermaster’s office a call at 541-883-4182.

This information will help water users know when water is available for diversion, based on whether the senior tribal determined claim is met. Please note: the graph does not display whether regulation is in effect due to calls for water from other senior users.

Like most western states, Oregon follows the “prior appropriation” doctrine of water use, often referred to as “first in time, first in right.” This means that when there is insufficient water to satisfy all water rights, water users with senior priority dates make a “call” to receive water, and users with junior water rights are shut off until the rights of the senior users making the call are satisfied.

Prior to distributing water from junior users to senior users, the Department’s watermaster staff make field measurements to validate the call and determine whether there is adequate water at the senior right’s point of diversion to satisfy the senior user’s water right demand. Once the calls are validated, the Department must begin distributing water from junior (newer) water right diversions to benefit the senior users.

The Klamath Tribes hold determined water right claims with a priority date of time immemorial, making them the most senior water right holders in the Upper Klamath Basin. The determined claims allow the Tribes to provide for a healthy riparian habitat among other instream needs. The Department’s web page provides the latest information on the Klamath Tribes’ instream determined claims, displaying a graph for the water year and showing the current mean daily streamflow along with past streamflow measurements made by Department staff.

Water distribution notification occurs by postal mailing of a notice of regulation, which requires junior water users to shut off their diversions, pumps, or wells. Water management through regulation and distribution occurs across much of Oregon every year, and has for a century. Watermaster staff follow up with field checks to individual points of diversion to ensure that water use is in compliance with regulation orders.

On April 18, 2019, the Watermaster’s office received a call for water to protect a number of senior instream determined claims. This call initiates the validation process, which will be conducted by District 17 Watermaster staff. The validation process involves instream flow measurements at many of the determined claim reaches. If the flow measurements confirm insufficient flows to meet the determined claims, and forecasted hydrologic conditions indicate no likely improvement, then the regulation process will begin. Water users will be notified via the US Postal Service if regulation requires them to cease using water from their surface water or groundwater sources.

If you have any questions, please contact the Watermaster’s office at 541-883-4182.

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