Updated Klamath Basin Water Supply Triggers Release of Reclamation's Drought Management Plan

Media Contact: Jeffrey S. McCracken, 916-978-5100

For Release: March 09, 2005

The Klamath Basin Area Office of the Bureau of Reclamation today announced that current extremely dry conditions in the Klamath Basin have triggered letters to be mailed to Klamath Project irrigation districts and individual irrigators implementing the Upper Klamath Lake Watershed Plan (Drought Plan).

"The letters call for meetings between Reclamation and the districts and individual irrigators to determine the allocation of water deliveries on the Klamath Project in the event of a drought," stated Dave Sabo, KBAO Area Manager. Sabo also requested that the districts "contemplate a range of possible allocation scenarios that could be implemented if a water supply deficiency materializes."

"Due to our analysis of the March 1 Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Klamath Basin Forecast, which predicts hydrological conditions between April and September, we need to begin now to plan the water deliveries to the Project," Sabo acknowledged.

Sabo pointed out that the March 1 NRCS forecast predicted Upper Klamath Lake inflow at 52 percent of average for April through September.

"But, as of today, snow pack has dwindled to 38 percent of average. Warm temperatures and dry conditions will likely further reduce future forecasts," Sabo said.

Oregon Department of Water Resources measurements of soil moisture show a continuing decline in levels over the past 4 years. The downward trend is particularly noticeable in upland areas away from human activities. These are the principal ground-water recharge areas, and this is indicative that absorption of snowmelt will continue, potentially reducing runoff throughout the spring.

"The fall and early winter Upper Klamath Lake inflows were considerably lower than last year's inflows," Sabo said. "Although early season snow pack and inflow forecasts were extremely optimistic, runoff never materialized."

Sabo said that last week he called for cooperation in the establishment of immediate conservation practices, "and today's analysis of the hydrology makes it clear that we can't wait another two weeks for the mid-month NRCS forecast."

Sabo said it's still early in the season.

"I'm hopeful that conditions may improve and that we will have an ample supply for all who depend on river flows."

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