If drought returns to Klamath County this year, farmers and growers shouldn’t expect assistance from the state.  The Oregon Water Resources Department recently announced if a drought emergency is declared, it is unlikely that Emergency Use Permits for groundwater will be issued.  Better known as drought permits, the Department said there could be some exceptions in areas where groundwater levels are found to be less impacted.


The Department says to minimize impacts for the upcoming growing season, OWRD reviewed groundwater level data from 2021, 2022, and January 2023, as well as climatic data from early 2023.  The results show that groundwater levels in and around the Klamath Project Area have declined by approximately 20-30 feet over the past three years, with some parts experiencing a decline of over 40 feet since 2001.  This longterm decline, combined with significant seasonal declines during the 2021 and 2022 irrigation seasons, has led to many domestic groundwater users having wells run dry since 2020, with OWRD continuing to receive dry well complaints as recently as January 2023. 


OWRD added it is committed to preserving the state's water resources and ensuring its responsible use, adding the Department will continue to closely monitor the hydrologic conditions in the Klamath Basin for any changes or updates into the future and provide updates as necessary.


Existing groundwater rights for irrigation and supplemental irrigation total 55,000 acres in and around the Klamath Project area and are not impacted by whether drought permits are issued. The Oregon Water Resources Department is the state agency charged with studying, allocating, and distributing water in Oregon. Visit OWRD's Website to learn more about the Department. 


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