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Klamath Basin Water Distribution Update

2022 Drought

On March 7, 2022, Governor Brown issued a drought declaration for Klamath County, the first this year and nearly a month earlier than last year. It is already clear from snowpack and streamflow numbers: this will be another difficult year.

Conditions continue to be monitored by the State's natural resource and public safety agencies, including the Oregon Water Resources Department, the Oregon office of Emergency Management, the Oregon office of the State Fire Marshal, and the Oregon Department of Forestry's Fire Protection Division

At the request of Klamath County by Resolution No. 2022-016 dated February 22. 2022, and based on the recommendations of the Drought Readiness Council and the Water Supply Availability Committee, and pursuant to ORS 536.740, low snowpack, low reservoir levels, and low streamflow have caused or will cause natural and economic disaster conditions Klamath County.

The governor’s Executive Order NO. 22-02 is set to expire on December 31, 2022.

2021 Drought

Klamath County is experiencing severe drought conditions. On March 31, the Governor signed Executive Order 21-07 declaring a drought emergency in Klamath County. The Water Resources Department is making it a priority to review and approve emergency groundwater use drought permits in the basin. Given the severity of conditions, applications denied in prior drought years in Klamath may be eligible for up to 2.5 acre-feet per acre. Access application materials here or visit our drought page.

Report your dry well or significant reductions in well output. Reporting your dry well also helps scientists and water managers better understand changes in groundwater supplies and how those changes may be impacting people that rely on those supplies. If you report your dry well, the Department may notify you of funding and other assistance. Learn more about dry wells.

Water Distribution

This site contains the stream location, status of water calls by senior users, whether regulation of water has occurred, and the priority date to which junior water rights are not allowed to be diverting water for the Klamath Basin in Oregon. If you are experiencing difficulty finding information, please call the District 17 Watermaster's office at 541-883-4182. This information will help water users know when water is available for diversion.

Please note: The graphs provide information on stream flow relative to the Klamath Tribes determined claims for instream flows.  The graphs displayed do not indicate if regulation is or is not in effect.

On November 1, 2021, the Watermaster received a call for the enforcement of the Tribes instream determined claims. Watermaster staff began the validation process.

As of November 1, 2021, flows on the Williamson River and elevations on the Klamath Marsh are insufficient to meet the determined claims. All out of stream uses from the Williamson and all its tributaries and the Klamath Marsh are regulated off until February 28, 2022 or otherwise determined by the Watermaster.

As of November 1, 2021, flows in the Wood River are sufficient to meet the determined instream claim. Tributaries to the Wood River are also sufficient to meet the determined instream claim. There is currently no regulation in force for authorized uses on the Wood River system. The Watermaster will continue to monitor the flows and will update as conditions warrant.

For up to date information on regulation please select the "Klamath Basin Status" link under the "Resources" category on the right side of this page.

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

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.

2020 Dispute Between U.S. BOR and KID

The following sections list information obtained by the Department as part of its ongoing investigation in aid of distribution of water following notification of a dispute between the Klamath Irrigation District and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation pursuant to ORS 540.210.