Klamath Basin Agricultural Water Supply Allocations Issued By Federal Agency

KLAMATH COUNTY, Ore. — Klamath Basin farmers have raised concerns following the announcement of initial water allocations for 2024 by the federal Bureau of Reclamation on Monday. The water allocation is expected to be too low to meet agricultural demands, despite the average snowpack in the area.


Water Reductions In Klamath Basin

The Bureau of Reclamation delivers water for irrigation and associated purposes, covering around 230,000 acres in southern Oregon and northern California. The water allocation for 2024 is slightly less than last year’s supply.

The agency also indicated that the ongoing restoration of the Klamath River, taking place alongside the removal of 4 hydroelectric dams, is a new factor this year. They said the amount of water that can be released at any one time down the Klamath River is limited to avoid damaging environmental restoration work. The banks of several former reservoirs are currently being replanted with native species. The director of water policy with the Klamath Water Users Association, Moss Driscoll, said less water sent downriver could mean there is additional water available for other uses.

The Water Users Association signed a landmark agreement in mid-February with local tribes to collaborate on water supply reliability projects and ecosystem restoration to reduce water demands in the basin.

Monday’s announcement also indicated that an extra $8.5 million in funding for drought resiliency projects and an extra $5 million in ecosystem restoration money has been allocated to Klamath Basin tribes.

The drought resiliency funding is expected to be used for a program where farmers are paid to not take water, according to Driscoll. In 2022, when the agency delivered the second-lowest water allocation in history, $20 million in drought relief funding was paid to farmers.


Farmers Unhappy With Federal Water Allocations In Klamath

Driscoll confirmed that farmers will only get about two-thirds of the water they want. Although there could be more water allocated later in the season, farmers had to make decisions about their crops now. Driscoll said, “That’s not a fair request to just tell them to be patient when that’s not a choice right now.”

Driscoll feels there is likely enough water to fully supply repayment and settlement contractors in the 2024 operations plan. He said there could be limited supply available for so-called “Warren Act Surplus Water contractors,” a group representing around 60,000 acres, and other contractors who are given water after everyone else.

The association is negotiating with local tribes to see if potential excess water could be given to farmers who have less senior water rights. They are looking at longer-term projects to improve efficiency and make their operations sustainable.

Morning Brief Newsletter
Sign up today for our daily newsletter, a quick overview of top local stories and Oregon breaking news delivered directly to your inbox
You can unsubscribe at any time
Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.