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Klamath Alternative Dispute Resolution
Virtually all western states recognize some form of the “prior appropriation doctrine”—a set of legal principles for water use evolving since the turn of the century. The doctrine promoted development of the arid west by encouraging settlers to divert water from streams, rivers and lakes and put it to “beneficial use.” The western states each have some form of policy for allocating water by the issuance of water rights. Additionally, all western states use an “adjudication” to recognize historic water uses which began before water codes were enacted.
Oregon has become the first western state to take a bold step away from the highly structured and divisive process of a traditional water rights adjudication. The Oregon Water Resources Department is charged with administering an adjudication on behalf of the state Circuit Court. Through the KBA/ADR, Oregon offers an option whereby the major water users, tribes, federal agencies, other governments, interest groups and citizens can not only work together to quantify and recognize historic use rights, but also collaborate on strategies that will help restore the watershed, ensure long-term sustainability and address future supply needs. The expected outcome is a negotiated agreement among these participants, which will settle the water rights and offer long-term guidance for watershed management.
Under the program, participants developed the concept, provided background information about water use claims and needs of the basin, discussed goals, and developed the “ground rules” for meetings. The process was assisted by a mediator. The full group—led by the Oregon Water Resources Department—includes the Klamath Indian Tribe, six federal agencies, major water users, environmental group representatives, and individual farmers and ranchers.  Agreements accepted by the full group ultimately will be forwarded to the Circuit Court for incorporation into the Adjudication Decree. Agreements may also be implemented through private contracts among water users or intergovernmental agreements among various local, state and federal agencies, and the Klamath Indian Tribe.
The Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement is an example of this type of agreement that the Department supports. Read more here about the Department's support for this kind of an agreement.
Meeting Announcements
Meeting Summaries

Working Groups
Click here for a listing of the working groups and their members.

Operating Principles
Click here to read the Klamath ADR Operating Principles.

Contest Questions
Click here for a list of frequently asked questions about the contests. (PDF 208 KB)