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The Klamath Basin Adjudication was initiated in 1975 for the purpose of adjudicating pre-1909 water rights in the Klamath Basin. In March 2013, the adjudicator, Oregon Water Resources Department, (OWRD) issued its Findings of Fact and Final Order of Determination (FOD). In the next phase of the adjudication, the Klamath County Circuit Court will hear any objections to the FOD and then issue a water rights decree.

Klamath Basin Water Regulation

OWRD will now regulate the Klamath Basin according to the FOD. This means that successful water right claimants who hold pre-1909 priority dates will be able to request the regulation of junior water right holders for the first time. As a result, some water right holders who have had access to water for over 100 years will now be subject to regulation.

Impacts on the Rogue Valley

Why does this matter to residents of the Rogue Valley? Three irrigation districts (Talent, Medford, and Rogue River Valley) (collectively, the Districts) supply irrigation, municipal and industrial water to over 35,000 acres in the Rogue Basin. The Districts depend in part on a 1910 water right to store and divert water from Fourmile Lake in the Klamath Basin over to the Rogue Basin. The use of that water right is now in jeopardy because of several very large claims by the federal government on behalf of the National Forest Service, the Klamath Tribes and the Bureau of Reclamation.

First in Time Is First in Right How is this possible? Oregon follows the “prior appropriation” doctrine of water use, like most western states. When there is not enough water to satisfy all the water rights, water users with senior priority dates will receive water, while water users with relatively junior rights will not. Simply stated, water users who are “first in time” are “first in right.” There are many water rights junior to the Districts’ Fourmile Lake right that should be curtailed first. Nonetheless, in many years there is simply not enough water to go around in the Klamath Basin.

Next Steps

The Districts are represented by legal counsel as they participate in the Klamath Adjudication process. The Districts are engaged in the court proceedings and are prepared to defend the Fourmile Lake water right to the fullest extent possible.

Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement

It is important to note that the Klamath Adjudication and the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) are two very different things. The KBRA hinges on Klamath River dam removal (among other things), and those dams have nothing to do with the Districts’ diversion or transportation of water to the Rogue Basin. The Districts were approached by both the proponents and opponents of the KBRA at one time or another to take a position on the KBRA. However, the Districts determined the KBRA was a local issue in the Klamath Basin rather than a Rogue Basin issue, and chose to remain neutral with respect to the KBRA.

This information sheet has been prepared by the Rogue Basin Water Users Council, Inc. (RBWUC), which is an entity formed to handle issues and events that are common to Medford, Rogue River Valley and Talent Irrigation Districts.

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