Help for dry well
owners as groundwater decline persists
and News by Alexandra Feller 8/7/21
In July, the
number of dry wells registered in Klamath County was at 84.
A month later, that number has climbed to 185 as wells from
the California state line all the way to Crescent and La
Pine are getting low and going dry.
likely more unregistered dry wells in Klamath County. The
county watermaster’s office said they receive daily calls
from well owners asking how to register. And the Modoc
County Sheriff shared a PSA
on Facebook explaining what
to do if someone in that county is without well water.
“Not all of
these (registrees) are people with dry wells, some just have
low levels and want a backup plan,” said Dani Watson,
watermaster of District 17 in Klamath Falls.
For now, well
users in Klamath County are encouraged to continue
registering dry wells with the watermaster in order to
receive water storage tanks and water deliveries from the
operating under a similar procedure, and asks water users to
report dry wells directly to the Tulelake Irrigation
Brad Kirby, the
manager for Tulelake Irrigation District said they’ve
received 14 reports of dry wells.
delivered tanks to 10 of those,” he said. “The others seem
to be running intermittently.”
is working with the Oregon Department of Human Services to
provide 500 gallon water storage tanks to people with dry
Commissioner Kelley Minty-Morris said approximately 75 tanks
were delivered to people with dry wells as of July 30. Some
needed the 500-gallon tanks to store water, but others were
able to find their own. Regardless, everyone is struggling
to fill them.
with Lynden Transportation and arranged for MilkyWay — bulk
milk delivery trucks — to refill water storage tanks in
Klamath and the surrounding areas.
Tuesday was the
first day this service was available.
we loaded 6,000 gallons of water into our tank,” said John
Bailey, the crew’s operations manager.
milk-trucks-turned-water-tenders will squeeze their way into
skinny driveways to funnel water into storage tanks every
week through the end of October.
“But who knows,
that could be extended,” Bailey said.
There is an
additional water distribution site at the Klamath County
Road Department on Wesgo drive. People registered with the
watermaster can bring containers to be filled at this site
on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.
The site is
staffed with emergency response team members and volunteers
from local churches.
For some people
living in rural areas of the basin, this isn’t the first
time they haven’t been able to rely on their well water. And
one household is prepared to permanently live on water from
Lydia Gil is 76
and lives with her husband Roberto on Hill Road in Tulelake.
Gil’s house is one of few on the road, so when her well ran
dry in the beginning of July, she had few neighbors to turn
to for help.
But Gil was
never a fan of her well water to begin with.
“My house is
old and sat unoccupied for a long time,” she said.
They never felt
comfortable drinking it, which was pumped to the house
through lead pipes.
She knew her
well was scheduled to go dry, and didn’t plan on drilling it
prefer the tank,” she said. “They dropped a tablet in there
to purify the water and it tastes much better than anything
from my well.”
received a tank from Tulelake Irrigation District in late
July. Gil said Marc Staunton — a prominent farmer in the
area — personally came to her house on behalf of Tulelake
Irrigation District to fill the tank.
received it, they relied on a friend in Tulelake to fill
jugs of water for bathing and cooking.
Gil said her
husband got creative when it came to procuring hot water for
baths. In this case, the 100 degree weather worked to their
advantage. Roberto positioned jugs of water in the sun so it
would be warm enough for Lydia to have a hot bath at the end
of the day.
water was only one way they creatively adapted to the
self-described “go getter,” does not sit idle. After her
husband installed piping from their new water tank to the
house, she spent almost two days catching up on laundry and
Gil said the
most frustrating aspect of not having water was the
inability to mop her floors.
“I love a clean
floor,” she said. “I want you to be able to walk in here
with white socks and say ‘Gosh Lydia your floors are just
drives into town, she is irked to pass irrigation sprinklers
that sometimes miss the fields and spray into the road.
“I drive down
that road in the morning, there’s a puddle. At 2 p.m. a
bigger puddle, and by 5 o’clock, I’m washing my car,” she
said. “I understand they have to irrigate, but it’s hard to
see water being wasted when you don’t have any.”
The Klamath Basin isn’t unique
Ivan Gall, a
scientist with Oregon Water Resources Department, said
drought will continue to worsen as climate change brings
hotter and drier summers and wilder swings in weather.
“This is not
unique to Klamath, it’s happening worldwide,” Gall said.
said this year’s dry well epidemic “could be a delayed
effect of pumping groundwater over the years, or it could be
an immediate result of this year’s pumping.”
groundwater in the Basin and monitors wells. He said basin
hydrology is widely connected, and what happens in one
pocket impacts the rest.
affects everyone, and things don’t stop at the border,” he
said. “If anything this year is showing us how connected the
upper and lower aquifers are.”
Oregon Water Resource Department measurements, the
groundwater level in the basin has declined by 30 feet since
season we’re expecting another 40-50 feet (of decline),”
Gall said. “And that is significant.”
water table is impacted by increased pumping and the lack of
surface water recharge.
have specific recharge sites in place, but that
infrastructure is not as common here,” Gall said.
drought coupled with an increased reliance upon groundwater
will continue dropping the water table and causing shallow
aquifers to dry up. Gall used a metaphor to explain it: You
are withdrawing more money from the bank than you are
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