By Lee Juillerat
May 6, 2017
H&N file photo: Annie Creek is a supplier of water to Crater Lake National Park as well as ranchers in the Fort Klamath area
Tank trucks will begin hauling water to Crater Lake National Park early next week for use by park visitors and residents and for fire protection.
The action is necessary because the state of Oregon has instructed the park not to withdraw surface water from Annie Creek.
The water regulations on the Wood River system stem from an April "call" by the Klamath Tribes on their Klamath Basin water claims. The call was validated later last month by the Oregon Water Resources Department.
The park draws its water from Annie Creek, a tributary of the Wood River and part of the Upper Klamath Lake watershed. Because of previous concerns about water shortages, since 2013 the park has been developing a well that uses groundwater. Once completed this summer, the park will have an alternative source of water to use during times of surface water shortages.
Crater Lake Superintendent Craig Ackerman said tanker trucks will transport potable water to the park's water system beginning Monday or Tuesday. The cost for water delivery for May, with an option for June, is nearly $400,000.
"We are going to do everything we can to not have this affect visitor experiences," Ackerman said, noting the park hopes to have a new well connected to its water treatment plant sometime this summer. The park typically uses about 36,000 gallons of water a day in May and 42,000 gallons a day in June, although those figures nearly double during the prime visitation summer months of July and August.
Park officials began planning for possible water shortages in 2013. Ackerman said the process of obtaining permits for the well, identifying and obtaining funding, digging the well and meeting numerous environmental and other compliance regulations, along with other mandatory steps, has been slow.
The final step, digging a mile-long underground water line from the well to the treatment facility, is scheduled this summer. Timing is uncertain because there is still more 10-feet of snow along the intended waterline route.
Cost for the well, which is being done by the Contractor Service Group of West Sacramento, Calif., is $874,000. Funding is provided from Crater Lake's park entrance fee fund.
Park officials are also working to access water from the well source with a temporary pump before the waterline to the treatment plan is completed. Once in place, it will require less water to be transported from outside areas although water will still have to be transported from the well location to park's water system.
Four 5,000 gallon water storage tanks will be located near Annie Creek. Snowplow crews are working to clear the area for the storage tanks. Tankers from the contractor, Action Sanitary of Lower Lake, Calif., will carry 6,000 gallons of water per load.
Until the new well is operational, Ackerman said all visitors and employees are being asked to use water wisely during the water supply shortage.
“We are doing everything we can to remain open with limited water service,” he said. “We need our visitors’ support and assistance to conserve water by heeding our water saving tips.”
To reduce water use, visitors can bring their own drinking water while people staying overnight — the concession-operated Crater Lake Lodge opens May 19 and the Cabins at Mazama Village open May 26 — can take shorter showers, turn off the water while brushing their teeth and reuse sheets and towels to cut down on laundry.
Ackerman emphasized that low-flow fixtures, including toilets, shower heads, faucets, and washing machines have been installed in park facilities and residences in recent years.
Since 2005, the park's concessionaire, Xanterra Parks & Resorts, has been replacing standard fixtures in concession facilities with low-flow models. The company has also modified operations to reduce water consumption.
There are no plans to use water from the lake itself because, as park officials emphasize, the primary purpose of the park is to preserve the lake.
More information about Crater Lake’s water shortage action plan is available at www.nps.gov/crla/planyourvisit/water-shortage-frequently-asked-questions.htm.
Crater Lake National Park's main water supply for the park comes from Annie Creek, a tributary of the Wood River.
According to the park's website, "Despite this winter's above average snow and precipitation 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 in-stream 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 the Klamath Tribes called their claim on the Wood River.
On May 1 the Wood River was regulated to "time immemorial,' the earliest available water right. On May 3 the Oregon Water Resources Department informed Crater Lake National Park staff to cease withdrawing water from Annie Creek, the park’s primary water source."