Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Domestic well users hit hard during growing season
Herald and News July 22, 2010
Dennis Oden’s log home in Merrill is nestled in the side of a hill. A second-story porch allows for an expansive view of fields and mountains, framing Mount Shasta in the distance.
But the picturesque view comes at a price: Oden relies on a domestic well for water, availability of which becomes an issue during the growing season.
Oden is surrounded by farm and ranch land. When water is in short supply, farmers with wells use them, especially when the government reimburses their pumping costs with programs like the Water User Mitigation Program.
“Farmers are going to do what they’re allowed to do,” Oden said. “I don’t blame the farmers for using it. They have to, it’s their livelihood, but what about us?”
There is not yet a program to help domestic well owners mitigate the cost of deepening wells or lowering pumps.
“We’re working on subsidies,” said Hollie Cannon, Klamath Water and Power Agency director. “The problem is funding. We’re desperately searching for ways to fund this program.
“The way the WUMP agreement is written, we can’t use federal funds available for domestic well mitigation,” he said. “If we could, we would be doing it.”
In the past, Oden spent several thousand dollars lowering his pump and deepening his well. His pump is 215 feet down his 240-foot well, about 60 feet into the water.
It costs as much as $30,000 to drill a domestic well. Oden said he knows at least four people who have had to drill new wells because groundwater levels dropped below the reach of their wells, and at least 20 others who had to drop their pumps.
The subsidy program notes in its policy, “an unprecedented amount of groundwater will likely be pumped,” affecting all well users, and, “groundwater pumping at the anticipated level is not sustainable.”
The program closed to new applications June 1.
Oden said organizations like KWAPA need to focus on equitable distribution of water and on regulating aquifer levels.
“It’s a resource that’s shared by everyone,” he said. “Just like how they try to regulate the level of the lake. What goes out must go in.”
Page Updated: Tuesday August 03, 2010 03:08 AM Pacific
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