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Scott Valley Protect Our Water – POW – in Siskiyou County, California
May 23, 2012
BOR releases latest forecast Tuesday
By JOEL ASCHBRENNER
H&N Staff Reporter
May 23, 2012
As warm, dry weather continues to rapidly melt snowpack in the Klamath Basin, projections for local irrigators are getting worse, foreshadowing a water shortage later in the growing season.
“If we don’t get some kind of significant weather event throughout the rest of the year and irrigation demand stays fairly high, when we get to August, there’s going to be trouble,” said Klamath Irrigation District Manager Mark Stuntebeck.
A Bureau of Reclamation forecast released Tuesday estimates there will be a water shortage of approximately 70,000 acre-feet on the Klamath Reclamation Project this summer. In wet years, the Project uses 400,000 acre-feet or more, irrigation officials say.
Projections last month ranged from full water deliveries to a shortage of about 50,000 acre-feet. But unseasonably warm weather turned the tide.
“The snow is coming off the mountains a lot sooner than we would like to see or what is normal,” said Kevin Moore, spokesman with the Reclamation’s Klamath Basin area office.
Snowpack in the Basin was 36 percent of historical average Monday, down from 56 percent last week and 82 percent two weeks ago. Irrigators depend on snowpack for water later in the growing season. If it melts too quickly, Upper Klamath Lake can’t hold it all, and water must be sent downriver.
There are plans to mitigate the water shortage with groundwater pumping and late-season land-idling programs, but so far, too few irrigators have signed up to cover the shortage, the Reclamation report stated.
The Klamath Water and Power Agency plans to pay irrigators to pump about 40,000 acre-feet of groundwater, but pumping much more than that could deplete aquifers, irrigation officials say. The deadline to apply for the KWAPA land-idling program is June 1, but so far few irrigators have applied, Stuntebeck said.
Some water stored
To help save some water for later in the season, Reclamation has stored about 15,000 acre-feet in a diked area near Agency Lake, above Upper Klamath Lake. Irrigators will pay to pump the water into Upper Klamath when they need it later in the season.
It’s been a “yo-yo” water year for irrigators, Stuntebeck said. Winter started bone dry, with essentially no precipitation from Thanksgiving to Christmas. It remained dry until March, when a flurry of snow storms improved the water outlook. Then the recent warm, dry spell made things worse.
“A good rain storm or two may very well bail us out,” he said.