Sustainability of Water in the Klamath Basin.

A journey of negotiations.

Gail J. Woodside

A web experience by Gail J. Woodside.

Oregon State University
Klamath Falls links
Water Sustainability links

Sustainability of Water in the Klamath Basin

            Sustainability of water in the Klamath Basin is an issue that has been at the forefront of agricultural, economical, cultural, and social minds and thought processes from the beginning of time.  From the time of immigrant pioneering movements into the Klamath Basin, water and land issues seem to burn the landscape with coercion and fear.  Who is in control, who owns the resources, who defines who owns the resources, which need it the most and so on.  Before we can talk about sustainability of water, we need to define it so there is an understanding of what sustainability really is.

            Sustainability, according to Environmental Protection Agency for the United States of America (EPA), states that these standards are the simultaneous promotion of equitable economic growth, environmental protection, and social well being ….a sustainable economy should preserve its capacity to generate income, which in turn maintains natural capital. (EPA 2006).  The EPA also states that sustainability is the common property of all Americans and measures need to be taken to protect them for future generations.  Individuals, Businesses, Communities, and Governments all need to become stewards of the environment.

            Native American Cultural sustainability is the preservation of natural resources as intertwined  with a interdependent lifestyle that envelopes and encompasses all that is to sustain a peoples and their ways.  With the advent of modern cultures and non-native immigrants into Oregon society, many seem to have forgotten how important a relationship is with the environment besides economical, industrial, or energy driven needs of the people who use them.   The loss of this relationship is one of the causes of ecosystem loss, not only in Oregon but world wide which has hurt and incapacitated ecosystems endangering the subsistence of human life.  Watershed ecosystem loss causes loss of balance as a people, we must use only what we need and give back equally.

            When discussing water health and watershed related issues with the stakeholders while visiting Chiloquin, Oregon, it was obvious that everyone we listened to had concerns about water availability and abundance.  These concerns not only included economic health, agricultural health and energy supplies, but also touched closely with the lives of the Klamath, Modoc, and Yahooskin people.  The Klamath people expressed how they came to understand their connection with the water, air, the land, the relatives and their origins as they have flourished in this region for thousands of years.  The Klamath relation to the water is as though the same blood that flows in the veins of the people flows in the stream next to their homes and businesses. In ceremony and not, the people give and return equally to the water hoping to hold on to a thread of culture that is quickly becomming lost to them. 

            The non-native stakeholders seemed to summarize sustainability as who controlled water rights and irrigation standards, who will receive cheap power and when the Klamath people may once again acquire ownership of lands that were once reservation lands before termination.  There was a fear that the privately held lands would also be taken, when in fact the only lands being negotiated with the Federal Government is for public land that is owned by the Federal Government.    Fear was also exposed as loss of lease land, recreation loss, and land being placed in Native control.  However these fears should have been alleviated from past negotiations.

            The many interlaced groups of the Klamath Basin have been involved in open negotiations over water and land issues spanning a seventeen year history.  Both sides of the issue did express that negotiations are finally getting better and that the factions are starting to agree and reach a consensus on some of the problems surrounding irrigable water and water rights issues not only in Klamath Basin but throughout the entire Klamath River region.

            There are many water boards in place trying to deal with the many diverse and complicated issues in the Klamath Basin.  The EPA has set up designated systems that manage and monitor stream flow and regulate runoff.  These guidelines were set up to ensure that the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality can assist in the management and regulation of these waters.  It is important for everyone to work together and come to an understanding that measures need to be implemented to save sustainable water in the Basin.  Time is now a factor as other global issues concerning climate change are affecting water issues.

            In conclusion one can only hope that the factions of communities can continue to come to a consensus over a majority vote.  The continuation of long term negotiations will only result in more ecosystem loss for water, fish, wildlife, and human needs.  If a consensus cannot be reached soon, breeches in ecosystem loss may reach thresholds that will not longer be able to be restored.

  This page has been dedicated to the three sisters.

 the Three Sisters

I love you Alyssa.