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Snake River - Klamath River Institutional Comparison. Richard Slaughter, Ph.D. Don Reading, Ph.D. Climate Impacts Group University of Washington. Introduction. How do alternative institutional history and structures impact adaptive capacity and resource conflict resolution? OR,

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snake river klamath river institutional comparison

Snake River - Klamath RiverInstitutional Comparison

Richard Slaughter, Ph.D.

Don Reading, Ph.D.

Climate Impacts Group

University of Washington

  • How do alternative institutional history and structures impact adaptive capacity and resource conflict resolution?
  • OR,
  • Are Markets a solution?
  • Comparison of the Snake and Klamath rivers
water diversions
Water Diversions

Source: Snake: IWRB, BOR Flow Augmentation Study, 1999; Klamath: ESU study, p. 46

irrigated acreage
Irrigated Acreage

* Water right: 3,000 cfs, about 900,000 AF over 5 months

water rights adjudication
Water Rights Adjudication
  • Snake (source IDWR; BOR augmentation study ch. 2)
  • Begun 1987
  • 142,000 claims (62,000 entities)
  • 121,000 recommendations to date
  • 104,000 preliminary decrees issued
  • Tribal claims settled in 1990; earliest right
  • Klamath (source OSU study, p. 79)
  • Begun 1990; federal/tribal claims 1996
  • 700 claims, of which 400 are federal or tribal
sources of stress
Sources of stress
  • Snake
  • Irrigation growth
  • Drought
  • ESA related
  • Municipal/Industrial growth
  • Klamath
  • Drought/ESA
  • Municipal growth
klamath history
Klamath history
  • Klamath Project 1904, BOR
  • Lands in the project mostly Class II and III
  • 200,000 acres of lower valued land lie upstream from Upper Klamath Lake, are not part of the Project
  • Before 2001, water scarcity not normally a concern for irrigators.
klamath history cont
Klamath history, cont.
  • ESA action applied only to BOR
  • The only short-term administrative action available was to cut off BOR clients in the Project
snake history
Snake history
  • Large scale private development from 1870
  • Federal, State assistance: Homestead Act, Carey Act, Reclamation Act
  • Droughts a problem from 1916
  • Local, cooperative arrangements date from 1919
  • - High trust among Mormon farmers
  • - Committee of Nine, 1919 - present
  • Conflicts after 1978 have produced continued innovation
  • - Revised Prior Appropriation rules, created markets
  • - Created management tools to reduce transfer cost
  • Recent innovation is response to threatened curtailment

Snake River Development History

Upper Snake: 345 diversions, 41 reaches, 9 reservoirs

esa events snake
ESA Events, Snake
  • Petitions to list , 1990
  • “Salmon Summit” (Hatfield), outside ESA
  • Sockeye and Chinook listed, 1991-92
  • BIOP 1991
  • Ruled inadequate
  • BIOP 1995
  • 1.2 m AF from Dworshack
  • 237,000 AF from Brownlee
  • 427,000 AF from Res. Upstream from Brownlee
esa part ii
ESA, part II
  • During current drought, 427,000 target has not been met
  • No releases the past three years
  • Suit threatened to void BIOP for Upper Snake
  • Demands all water in-stream to meet flow target at Lower Granite
gross loss from curtailment
Gross loss from curtailment
  • Klamath, 2001: $87 million gross receipts,
  • $33 million net (source: OSU study p. 379 (Jaeger))
  • Snake gross receipts: $3.5 billion
  • (source: Jerome workshop)
loss estimates source osu p 379
Loss Estimates (source OSU p. 379)
  • Calculated Gross loss 2001: $87 million
  • Ground water substitution: $13 million
  • Adjusted gross impact: $74 million
  • Estimated loss if a water market had
  • been in place: $6 million

Water trade-off and Market Opportunity: Klamath

Source: OSU study, p. 240 (Burke)

objections to water market klamath basin
Objections to Water Market (Klamath Basin)
  • “Won’t work; will never happen”
  • Fears that displacement of water from irrigation to other uses will destroy local farm economies
  • (OSU p. 382)
oregon not fully appropriated
Oregon not fully appropriated
  • New water rights may be obtained
  • Groundwater appropriation is encouraged in some situations - mitigate surface use
  • State authorized to appropriate for instream use (1987)
effect of new technology
Effect of new technology
  • Oregon: Water Duty is that required to serve the intended purpose
  • New technology can result in loss of right
  • “Conservation proposals” may recover a portion of the saved water for another use; part must go to instream
  • Idaho: Water Duty is that required to serve the intended purpose using the technology in existence at the time of the right
  • Excess can be banked or rented to preserve the right
  • Effectively circumvents “no expansion of use”
water transfers in oregon
Water transfers in Oregon
  • Authorized transfers for instream use 1987
  • Instream a “beneficial use”
  • Oregon Water Trust
  • Transfers between users (ORS 540.510 - 540.520)
  • Department determines no injury
  • Only entire right may be transferred
  • Portion not transferred is lost
  • Temporary transfers are allowed
  • Mitigation concept not well developed
  • Critical to a market; transaction cost reduction

Oregon Proposal for Mitigation Water Bank

Water Mitigation Bank Fund: The Department will propose that the 2001 Legislature create the authority for the Department to establish a water mitigation bank. The water bank would create a supply or "bank" of water that would be available for withdrawal by new water users to mitigate against injury to existing water rights and to protect and maintain streamflows to benefit fish and wildlife habitat. The concept promises to improve cooperative efforts among private, nonprofit and public entities for the management of surface and ground water resources. Moreover, a water mitigation bank may offer a reliable and effective regulatory framework for environmentally acceptable development of water resources.



After completion of the Eady transfer, three other water right holders (Frank and Marie Conklin, Denny and Marilyn Ebner, and Richard Mittry) sold their Smith-Barclay ditch rights to OWT. All three agreed to sell their rights to OWT in exchange for $1,000 to $1,500 an acre. One of the landowners has converted to a groundwater source, and OWT helped to facilitate this process. The application to transfer these water rights to an instream right has been approved by the Oregon Water Resources Department. Deschutes County, the Deschutes Resources Conservancy and OWT funded the purchase of these rights.

No conjunctive management



The DWE is an innovative, non-profit water brokerage dedicated to the restoration of streamflow in the Deschutes River. The Deschutes Water Exchange was founded to establish market infrastructure for water rights, so that both environmental and agricultural water needs can be met.

The Exchange encourages a full range of water transactions because the development of a broad market for water should result in a more efficient (and therefore less costly) means of acquiring water for instream uses. In practice, the DWE provides water-related fee-for-service assistance to private clients, investing all proceeds in the DRC mission of restoring streamflows and water quality in Deschutes Basin streams. The DWE also contributes directly to restoration initiatives, whether through its own inititative (such as the annual water leasing program or the 2003 Ochoco Irrigation District Leasing Auction) or through in-kind water rights assistance provided to the DRC or other conservation partners.

bureau of reclamation
Bureau of Reclamation
  • In 2001, set up own internal water transfer process for the Klamath Basin:
  • Accepted bids for 150 parcels, up to $300 per acre
  • Covered 25% of entire Project : 16,525 acres
  • Average $75 per AF
  • Also, took bids for groundwater conversion
  • Paid average of $33 per AF


A Water Resources Vision

A preferred future for water resource management in Washington State

  • A water market exists which replaces the need for and process of water allocation –
    • All water transactions are registered and data systems ensure full accountability.
    • True costs of water are identified in the system -- the market defines value, and value drives efficiency and maximum net benefits for use of water.
    • The doctrine of prior appropriation and attendant principles (beneficial use, abandonment/relinquishment) remain and are utilized within the market.
    • There are simple rules to ensure fair economic practices and to provide procedures for evaluating and avoiding impairment to other water rights.
    • Funds to support the market and to manage the natural resource base are derived from a market transaction fee, a fee for water use, and/or through state funding. A portion of the funds go to the local governance system, and a portion to the state for management of the natural resource base.
    • Water for basic family and small business needs is subsidized in the market through reinvestment of a portion of the fees. The local governance system man ages the subsidized water consistent with their land use authorities.
water transfers in idaho
Water transfers in Idaho
  • Authorized transfers
  • Water banking a beneficial use (1977)
  • No injury to third party
  • Mitigation required
  • Conjunctive management with groundwater
  • Established procedure for determining injury/mitigation
  • Transferring party does not have to bear burden Hydrologic modeling used to determine mitigation
  • Rental pools and water bank (1936 - 78)
  • Global rental pool on upper Snake 2003

Water Bank Conditions

The owner/lessor acknowledges the following:

1. Payment to the owner/lessor is contingent upon the sale or rental of the right from the bank.

2 While a right is in the bank, the owner of the right may not use the right even if the right is not rented.

3. A right accepted into the bank stays in the bank until the Board releases it or until the lease term expires.

4. While a water right is in the bank, forfeiture provisions are stayed.

5. Acceptance of a right into the bank does not, in itself, confirm the validity of the right or any elements of the water right.


In 2003 approximately 175,000 acre feet in the

Water Bank. However only approximately 5,000

acre feet annually are sold, rented or leased. Activity

has been increasing in recent years.

idaho rental pools
Idaho Rental Pools
  • Limitations
    • Administratively determined price
    • “Last to fill” penalty for water in the pool

Global Rental Pool (2003)

    • All storage owners must participate
    • All owners share in rental receipts
    • “Last to fill” is eliminated
    • In 2003, the driest year on record, there were no curtailments, but “price too low”


Three checks written: administrative fee, official price, payment “under the table”


Considerations for Rental

  • For use in Idaho only
  • No injury to other water rights
  • No enlargement in use of a right
  • Water must be beneficially used
  • Water must be sufficient for the intended use
  • Water use must be in the local public interest
    • (i.e., not injure other water users)
  • Idaho:
  • Long history of innovation under stress
  • Driven by irrigation; Environmental claims are recent
  • System continues to accommodate new uses
  • State developing tools to reduce transfer costs, increase transparency
  • Oregon:
  • Beginning to develop market structure
  • Driven primarily by environmental issues
  • Driven by state/federal policy; some contradictions
  • Washington:
  • Statement of vision
next steps
Next Steps
  • How to transfer the cultural and historic aspects of Idaho development to Oregon and Washington
  • Oregon and Washington (West side) have until recently lived in a riparian doctrine world: enough water for all uses
  • Learning curve aspects
  • Institutional aspects
  • Geographic differences