The Klamath Basin has seen many water shortages over the years.

The Klamath Basin has seen many water shortages over the years.

Devan Schwartz/EarthFix

Gov. Kate Brown declared drought in Klamath County earlier this week, making this the fourth consecutive drought year for the southeastern Oregon county. This year, the issue is that much of the precipitation has come in the form or rain rather than snow, leading to an extremely low snowpack.

Executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association Greg Addington says the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation revealed at a meeting Tuesday night that farmers, ranchers, and others will have roughly 60 percent of the amount of water they think they’ll need for the upcoming growing season. “We really didn’t think it could get much worse than last year,” says Addington, but “I’m very fearful this year is going to end up being worse.” 

Addington says that the competing demands for limited surface water have led to more farmers in the are to pump ground water.   “We’d much rather not pump that ground water,” says Addington, “We all live here.” 

The Klamath Basin straddles the border between California and Oregon, but Addington does not think new drought rules in California will affect his users too much. California Governor Jerry Brown recently imposed strict water usage rules in that state, but they primarily affect residential, not agricultural users. “We’re having issues here just trying to irrigate 200 acres of productive farmland,” says Addington, “its hard for me to imagine we’d be able to ship any amount of water down to California.”