Water Allocations Not Enough for Wildlife

Water Allocations Not Enough for Wildlife
By Connor Giampietri

April 8, 2015

MEDFORD, Ore. – A new report shows it’s expected to be another tough year for farmers in the Klamath Basin. The report shows farmers on the federal irrigation project straddling the Oregon-California border are slated to get 65% of their full amount of water for the growing season.

That’s more than they got last year, but officials with the Klamath Water Users Association say it still may not be enough.

The report also shows there will be no water allocated to help fish and wildlife. In fact Jim Mccarthy, the Communications Director and Program Manager at Water Watch of Oregon, said the allocation of water is a virtual death sentence for birds in the Klamath National Wildlife refuges.

“They’re not going to get any water and lack of water since 2012 in these refuges has annually caused the deaths of thousands of birds due to disease.” McCarthy said.

The lack of water forces birds to pack together, due to lack of habitat, and disease spreads through them, McCarthy said.

It’s also going to be a very risky summer and fall for salmon in the Klamath River. The federal government is not providing enough water to protect against fish kills, McCarthy said.

According to McCarthy there is a way to help begin to solve the problem.

“We’d like to see some comprehensive demand reduction, permanent demand reduction in the basin, that brings the demand for water into balance with what nature actually provides,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy also said Wednesday’s report paints farmers in a worse position than they actually are. The 65% of water allocation is when you look at maximum diversion. But when you look at average diversion, farmers are actually getting 80% of their water.

“Compared to everyone else in the basin, they are actually doing the best, compared to the fisherman, compared to the refuges, and indeed compared to the farmers who are their neighbors, the folks above Upper Klamath Lake and east of the project,” McCarthy said.