Reclamation provides early irrigation information to Klamath water users

Media Contact: Erin Curtis, 916-978-5100, eccurtis@usbr.gov

For Release: March 09, 2018

Klamath Falls, Ore. – At a meeting in Klamath Falls this afternoon, the Bureau of Reclamation provided a preliminary hydrology outlook to irrigators in the Klamath Basin. While the late start to the rainy season this year has delayed Reclamation’s ability to get a clear picture for the irrigation season, officials pledged to continue to provide as much information as possible as soon as possible heading into spring.

Irrigators were told that the snowpack and snow water equivalent so far in water year 2018 are well below average. Typically, snowpack builds through December and January and peaks about now, but this year is far from typical. Dry conditions so far have resulted in very low water inflows to Upper Klamath Lake, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service currently projects inflow to be about 54% of the historic average between March and September. The Klamath Basin would have to receive very significant amounts of rain and snow to catch up. In addition, the National Weather Service model currently predicts drought development is likely in a portion of the Klamath Basin.

“As we have heard today, the outlook for this year continues to be challenging. We will remain engaged and partnered with the County, Water Users, the State of Oregon and other stakeholders to ensure the best information and data is available as early as possible to aid farmers with their operational and business plans,” said Jeff Nettleton, Manager of Reclamation’s Klamath Basin Area Office.

“We would like nothing more than to be able to provide our Klamath Project contractors with an allocation for the year as soon as possible, and I assure you we are all working hard to get there,” said Nettleton. “We have been working hard with stakeholders and partner agencies to find a path forward this year despite the dire hydrologic conditions. Discussions about Project start timing with Klamath County, the Klamath Water Users Association and individual irrigation districts will continue and we hope to be able to provide more information in the coming weeks.”

In addition to the dry start to the season, Reclamation officials have been working through other issues that influence the 2018 operations and water supply allocation for the Klamath Project. Officials are evaluating a wide range of creative water management alternatives to ensure that legal requirements are upheld and impacts to Project irrigators for the 2018 irrigation season can be minimized. To help irrigators as they make operational and financial decisions for this year’s growing season, Reclamation plans to provide, as soon as practicable, the most current water forecast projections and preliminary water allocations for irrigators on the Klamath Project.

“We get updated forecast information every two weeks, and will share what our models show based on those updates with our irrigators as soon as it is available,” Nettleton said.

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Reclamation is the largest wholesale water supplier in the United States, and the nation's second largest producer of hydroelectric power. Its facilities also provide substantial flood control, recreation, and fish and wildlife benefits. Visit our website at https://www.usbr.gov and follow us on Twitter @USBR.