Federal water managers tell Klamath Basin farmers there will be no cuts in water usage this month

By Roman Battaglia (Jefferson Public Radio)
Sept. 6, 2023 4:50 p.m.

Farmers in the Klamath Basin that rely on scarce water won’t have to deal with cuts for the rest of the month, according to federal water managers. Water users had been warned last month about a potential shortfall.

The Bureau of Reclamation said improved hydrology, future water conservation and agreements between stakeholders means water allocations for the Klamath Project will remain the same through September.

Farmland framed by trees in the foreground and low rolling mountains in the distance.

After warnings earlier this year of possible cuts to water usage in the Klamath Basin, federal water managers say farmers that rely on that increasingly scarce water won’t have to deal with cuts for the rest of the month.

Devan Schwartz / EarthFix

The supply for the group that delivers water to farmers and ranchers throughout the basin will remain at the 260,000 acre-feet which was originally planned in May, 2023. That amount was an increase from the agency’s original allocation of 215,000 acre-feet in April because of above-average rain and snowfall over the past winter.

More recently, the agency had warned tribes and irrigation districts in mid-August that a shortfall of predicted water supply was possible. A spokesperson for the Bureau declined to comment on the reason for the announcement on Tuesday.

“The Department appreciates the willingness of our partners to engage in productive conversations to work through the past couple of weeks,” said Department of the Interior Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Parks Matthew Strickler in a press release. “We landed in a place that confirms our commitment to water users and fulfilling environmental needs.”

Recent years of drought have intensified tensions between groups seeking water for agriculture and endangered species protection.

Besides allocating water for the Klamath Project, Reclamation is required to maintain water in Upper Klamath Lake to provide habitat for endangered Lost River and shortnose suckers as well as provide water down the Klamath River for threatened salmon.