lose well water
State hydrogeologist Ned Gates exits a
domestic well after checking water levels at
a property on Dehlinger Lane on Thursday
August 12, 2005
HILL ROAD - Some taps are spitting out only drops of
water, and some nothing at all, in houses along Hill
Road near Merrill.
A combination of dry years
and increased irrigation pumping has caused the
water table to drop about 3.5 feet in each of the
past three summers, a state worker said.
"It's been kind of stair-stepping down," said Ned
Gates, a hydrogeologist for the Oregon Water
To get water back in some
residential wells, irrigators near Hill Road have
stopped pumping for the year.
The wells are part of the mid-Basin pumping group, a
cluster of wells throughout the middle of the
Klamath Reclamation Project whose 31 owners divided
$900,000 from the government to pump this year.
"We are not (pumping) in any places where there have
been any impacts," said Jim Carleton, one of the
The year 2001 is an important one on the calendar
for well water use in the Klamath Basin. Not only
does it mark the year that the federal government
shut off water to the Klamath Reclamation Project
for much of the summer, prompting many irrigators to
dig for water, but also it marks the top of the
water table after wet years in the late 1990s.
Although the federal government has filled the
canals every summer since, it is now also paying
people to pump. As part of the "water bank" bank
program, the Bureau signs contracts with irrigators
to have them either use well water instead of canal
water or to add well water to the canal. The goal of
the bank is to boost flows down the Klamath River
for coho salmon.
Hill Road winds through agricultural land and past
many irrigation pumps.
"Remember a lot of these
wells didn't exist until 2001," Gates said. "That's
what all this is in response to."
In late July homes along and
near Hill Road have been having wells go "dry,"
making cooking, washing and watering a hassle.
"Sometimes you'll be taking a shower and it will
just stop," said Jill Mathis, who lives with her
parents on Hill Road near Dehlinger Lane.
On July 31, neighbors on Dehlinger Lane saw their
water pretty much stop.
"We (had) about a
pencil-width of water coming out of our tap," said
Thursday, Gates came to check on the well to see if
it was dry. He comes from Bend every other month in
the summer to get readings from wells that he has
been monitoring since 2001.
He also looks into well
problems such as the Torgensens reported.
Gates dropped 40 feet of cord down their well.
"Ope ... there's water," he said.
The electric gizmo at the
end of the cord had been submerged, completing a
circuit and triggering the alarm at the top of the
Many of the wells Gates checks have water in them,
but the pumps aren't deep enough. The waterless
homeowners will either have to have their pump
lowered or wait for the water table to come back up.
The Torgensens are likely to have water again this
summer because irrigation pumps near them have been
shut off and the water table is rebounding. Now they
are weighing what to do with their well.
If the water table keeps going down, they said, they
will have to have the pump placed deeper, as they
did in 2001. But, they said, the pump is as deep as
they can get it without widening the well.
In the meantime, the Torgensens have a backup plan.
They spent $400 on a 1,000-gallon green plastic
water reservoir and are using it and gravity to put
water through their tap.