2017 – May 26 – Why is there a Water Shortage?

Why is there a water shortage?

The main water supply for the park comes from Annie Creek, a tributary of the Wood River located in the Klamath Basin of Southern Oregon. Despite above average snow and precipitation in Oregon this winter, stream flows in the Wood River are not at the levels determined necessary to maintain healthy and productive riparian habitats for native plants and fisheries in the Klamath Basin. As a result, a call for water has been issued and validated on the Wood River, and Crater Lake must use an alternate source of water for park needs.

Like most western states, Oregon follows the “prior appropriation” doctrine of water use, often referred to as “first in time, first in right.” This means that when there is insufficient water to satisfy all water rights, water users with senior priority dates make a “call” to receive water, and users with junior water rights are shut off until the rights of the senior users making the call are satisfied.

Under the Treaty of 1864, the Klamath Tribes have the right to hunt, fish, trap and gather on former reservation land. The Klamath Tribes have legally determined claims that provide for instream flows sufficient for the protection of riparian habitat during spring runoff months.
The priority date for these instream determined claims is “time immemorial,” making them senior to all other rights. On April 13, 2017 the Klamath Tribes called their claim on the Wood River. On May 1, 2017 the Wood River was regulated to “time immemorial,” the earliest available water right. On May 3, 2017 the Oregon Water Resources Department informed Crater Lake National Park staff to cease withdrawing water from Annie Creek, the park’s primary water source.

How will the water shortage affect Crater Lake National Park?

  • The park draws water from Annie Creek, a tributary of the Wood River, and part of the Upper Klamath Lake watershed, primarily to meet the needs of visitors – an average of 6,000 per day during the typical peak months of July and August.
  • The need to maintain water levels necessary to maintain healthy and productive riparian habitats in the Klamath Basin has required the State of Oregon to enforce a legal hierarchy of rights to the water that remains. Flows are currently not sufficient to meet the claims of the most senior water rights holders on the Wood River, therefore all water users have been regulated off.
  • Should water levels in the Wood River rise sufficiently to meet Tribal claims users will be notified in priority order of their claim that they may resume diverting water for their needs as long as minimum flows are met.
  • Park staff are implementing and refining contingency plans to increase our existing water conservation measures and to operate the park with limited water service this spring and summer.
  • The park will be purchasing and hauling potable water from sources outside the park for domestic use and fire protection.
  • The park is in the process of constructing a well that uses ground water rather than drawing from the surface water of Annie Creek. Once the well is completed later in 2017, the park will have an alternative source of water to use during times of surface water shortages.

What does the park use water for?

The park’s water use is primarily for drinking, food preparation, showers, and toilets, as well as fire preparedness.

Why doesn’t the park just use the water in Crater Lake?

Consuming Crater Lake water would conflict with the park’s mission to preserve the lake. The park’s water claim for the lake is for the preservation and protection of all natural habitats and the conservation of scenery. It is not for human consumption. Additionally, the lake is difficult to access and would require significant engineering and infrastructure development to connect to our existing water system.

Why doesn’t the park melt snow to meet its water needs?

Under Oregon law, all water is publicly owned. Use of snowmelt requires a water right permit, which would still be subject to the current call. Basically, the snow on the ground at the park is connected to the surface water that is needed downstream. There are exceptions for collecting snow from impervious surfaces such as roofs and roadways. However, using this source of water would not be cost effective or likely meet the park’s needs.

Will Crater Lake National Park have to close?

We are looking at every option to keep the park open with limited water service.

What would the economic impact of a shutdown be?

The park is a significant contributor to the region’s economy; in 2016 (the latest data), more than 756,000 visitors spent $65.3 million in communities within 60 miles of the park that supported 1100 jobs.

How much water do you use every day and how much do you need to operate?

In May, the park and its visitors use an average of 36,000 gallons of water per day. During peak season, the use rises to almost double that amount. The conservation measures we are considering would significantly reduce water use. Conservation measures are proposed to reduce water use as much as possible during the water call.

How will the park provide water during the restriction period?

Until the well is fully functional, the park is making plans to transport water to our water system. Initially, this water will all be coming from outside of the park. We are also working on accessing water from the well source with a temporary pump before the well is completed. Once this is in place, it will require less water to be transported from outside areas, though the water will still have to be transported from the well location to our water system within the park. You will see water storage tanks near Annie Creek and water trucks driving from either outside the park or the well location (off of Highway 62 West, near the Pacific Crest Trail crossing) to Annie Creek.

What will happen to National Park Service and concession employees in the event of a water shut-off?

The National Park Service and Xanterra Parks & Resorts are actively working together to develop contingency plans for the drought that limits impacts to our employees, park visitors, partners, businesses, and the local economy.

What will happen to visitors with reservations to stay in the Lodge or the cabins at Mazama Village?

We continue to welcome visitors from around the world to this national treasure. We are letting them know about the water shortage and asking for their help in limiting their water use.

What water conservation measures are you taking?

Over the past several years, the National Park Service has installed low-flow fixtures including toilets, shower heads, faucets, and washing machines in park facilities and residences. Since 2005, Xanterra Parks & Resorts has been replacing standard fixtures in concession facilities with low-flow models. The company has modified operations to reduce water consumption.
Mailing Address:

Crater Lake National Park
PO Box 7
Crater Lake , OR 97604

Phone:

(541) 594-3000