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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.

During 2018, the Klamath Basin experienced drought conditions. On March 13, 2018, Governor Brown declared a drought in Klamath County. As a result of that declaration, certain preferences for human consumption and stockwater use are allowed until October 13, 2018. The Water Resource Commission, under authority ORS 536.025 delegated a limited authority to the Oregon Water Resource Director to issue orders extending preferences for human consumption and livestock. For more details please visit the Klamath Water Use Preference Page

2018 regulation included both surface water and ground water. The regulation of ground water is described under Oregon Administrative Rule 690-009 (Division 9) rules.

All out of stream water rights for the Williamson River and tributaries to the Williamson are regulated off based on a validated call from a senior determined claim with Time Immemorial priority date.The Wood River is regulated to a 1904 priority date. Fork Creek and Crooked Creek are regulated to an 1864 priority date.

Regulation of priority dates are subject to change based on flows and changes in instream determined claims.

The current regulation order will expire at the end of the irrigation season, October 31, 2018 or the date expressed in your water right. If you are not certain of your irrigation season please contact the watermaster’s office.  Water users who have questions about the regulation for water distribution should contact the Klamath Falls Watermaster’s office at (541) 883-4182.

For questions please contact: 
Watermaster 541-883-4182

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