Reaping the Whirlwind: Water War Along the California-Oregon Border



Posted: 06/19/2013 6:16 pm



Not clear how many HuffPosters go Biblical, but this one fits. With a fresh backdrop of unprecedented forest fires in the West, ferocious storms along the Eastern Seaboard (tornadoes attacking elsewhere), alternating drought and flood in the country’s interior wreaking havoc on the Mississippi and the next of many rounds on its way, you can almost hear the booming voice indicting us with a good, “they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.”


But before anybody cranks up the old Climate Deny Machine to deconstruct whether 19 of 20 scientists can agree these weather events are related, let’s pivot to something that we definitively know humans made happen: a burgeoning water war along the Oregon-California border. As you read this, Oregon state employees are traveling across the Klamath Basin, shutting down the irrigation systems of ranchers and farmers to make sure that the Klamath Tribes get water they just found out they are legally entitled to.


This water war, pitting tribes and fish and wildlife against ranchers and farmers, is truly the result of human actions: in every sense, this environmental whirlwind was engineered by America legally, physically and economically. It is the obvious result of the application of a century-old water law that struggles to keep up with changing demands and modern priorities.


The law that allowed this war to start, called “Prior Appropriation,” was drawn up to encourage the settling of a dry land for a nation in a hurry. Hastened by gold, railroads and Manifest Destiny in 1800s, we needed a practical and simple way to know who could use scarce water resources when. Prior Appropriation grew out of a time and place where the West seemed boundless. A world where no one could predict that someday in the future, just about every drop of water would eventually be promised to someone before it reached the ocean. Prior appropriation did just that: it allocated “water rights” to all comers on a first come first serve basis. And it over-allocated many: across the Western United States, more people hold water rights “on paper” than there is actual water in streams in a given year.


Despite the lack of water accounting, for a long time the system worked. Settlement grew. Agriculture grew. The desert literally bloomed. What didn’t grow was the water budget. In fact, we have no more water on Earth today than we did when the planet opened for business. But in this country, our water is highly managed–it moves when and how we say it moves. The plumbing system of the American West has enough water in ditches, canals and reservoirs to put all of Oregon, Washington, Idaho and a chunk of Montana under a foot of water simultaneously.

Prior Appropriation creates clear winners and losers during times of water shortage. In dry years, those with older (aka “prior”) water rights can tell those with younger water rights to shut off. And from this long-standing interpretation of water law came the current conflict in the Klamath. Before this year, most of the water right owners in the Klamath didn’t know who had the prior rights and who had the less valuable junior rights. That is because the basin had not yet finalized their Water Rights in a process called “adjudication.”


The Klamath water rights were finalized barely a month ago and this process once-and-for all legally determined who gets what water in dry years. It was through this process that the Klamath Tribes were awarded water rights with priority dates that go back to “Time Immemorial.” That trumps every other water right holder’s date in the Klamath Basin. As coincidence would have it, this year is off to a dry start. The Klamath Tribes have made a call on their water, shutting off an untold number of ranchers and farmers downstream, to ensure that they can use their water for traditional needs of fishing, hunting, and agriculture.


This has predictably upset the apple cart (quasi-Biblical) for those farming in the basin and tensions are as high as they have been since agriculture was shut off to help endangered salmon in 2001. Right now, for safety in the basin, watermasters (the state of Oregon employees who have to shut off junior users) have taken to going out in teams of two and notifying the sheriffs’ office where they are headed. In a developed nation, that seems pretty wild.


To me, the real question has become: What events will jar us into realizing we need to shift our water management style? Our high capacity to ignore big, observable facts gives preference to how things used to be over how things ought to be–and that won’t work on the road ahead. The environmental issues we will face will be violent, fast and unpredictable. Several factors will move beyond our control. But our water future is something within our control, and we should solve for that.


A pathway exists to achieve more optimized use of water, but it will look different than how we have done it in the past. We need to accurately quantify the annual water budget, leaving enough for streams and ecosystems to function properly. Then we need to allow the trading of water among uses to allocate the water to the most productive uses and users.


This won’t be an easy transition. Some enviros will say that the market is no way to allocate a public resource like water; some ranchers and farmers will claim that family farms will be out-competed for water by bigger, more sophisticated agribusiness interests. Risks have to be managed, but such a sea-change in water management is not without successful precedent Instead of creating winners and losers according to whose great-great-great grandfather settled first, a system in Australia efficiently and fairly promotes economic and environmental gains, and ours should too. A race to produce more with less rather than a race to the bottom of the well is the better one to run.


Klamath water fight goes to Washington

Klamath Basin water users are testifying before a Senate committee in D.C. Thursday.

The Klamath Water Users Association represents farmers and ranchers in the basin and is hoping a senate committee will help get the water turned back on for ranchers.

Greg Addington with the association is testifying today, and representing 42 interested parties.

There’s been a long running struggle in the basin to ensure everyone gets enough water in the dry months.

Addington says irrigators need to be part of the solution along with fish groups, tribes and the power company, “for us to really fix some of theses things we have to have the government involved and to do that we need we need legislation passed to do that.”

Water in some irrigated areas of the Klamath Basin was turned off last week.

Despite court pleas from irrigators, tribes are still getting priority, to protect fish.

Thursday, Senator Ron Wyden said, the price tag is too high for agreements made after the Klamath Basin water crisis in 2001.

Many say, this year’s partial shut-off could have been avoided if Congress had passed agreements to help restore tribal fisheries.


Nestle Adds Premium Brand in Still Water Arena

New York Times

Published: June 9, 2013

DRINKING tap water is essentially free, but even during the economic downturn, consumers have sprung for bottled water, with sales in the United States increasing 6.7 percent in 2012, to $11.8 billion, according to the International Bottled Water Association. Americans on average drank 30.8 gallons of bottled water, 5.3 percent more than in 2011.

Ads for Resource, which are being introduced on Monday, are aimed at a stylish, higher income woman.

Now Nestlé Waters North America, the top producer with about a third of the domestic bottled water market, hopes to make a splash with a new brand it is introducing nationally, Resource.

Larry Cooper, group marketing manager for Resource, said the brand, which was introduced in Whole Foods in 2009, then Southern California in 2012 before its national rollout early this month, is intended for the most discriminating water drinker.

“We look at bottled water as being at a more value, mainstream or premium level,” Mr. Cooper said. “And we have incredibly good coverage in those first two tiers, but we haven’t in all these years had a premium entry to compete with the Smartwater, Fijis and Evians of the world,” he continued, referring to the Glacéau, Fiji Water Company and Danone Waters of North America brands.

While Nestlé owns premium sparkling water brands like San Pellegrino and Perrier, Resource is what it calls its first domestically sourced premium brand of still water, meaning noncarbonated and noneffervescent.

Nestlé Pure Life has a narrow lead in the bottled still water category, with a 10 percent share, followed by Dasani, a Coca-Cola brand, with a 9.7 percent share, and Aquafina, a PepsiCo brand, with a 9.4 share, according to data for the 52 weeks ending May 19 from SymphonyIRI Group, a market data company. Other Nestlé brands include Poland Spring, with a 6.3 share, Deer Park, with a 4.4 share, and Ozarka, with a 3.4 share.

Resource is being aimed primarily at “a woman who is a little more on the trendy side and higher-income side, and the bull’s-eye is 35 years old,” Mr. Cooper said.

New print ads show the bottle in lush woodland settings, and highlight “100 percent naturally occurring electrolytes — for taste, never added” and that the bottle has 50 percent recycled plastic content.

“It’s more than hydration, it’s total electrolytenment,” says the headline in the ads, which will be introduced on Monday in publications including People, Vanity Fair, In Style and Fitness. The campaign, which includes online advertising, is by McCann, New York, part of the Mediabrands division of the Interpublic Group of Companies. Public relations efforts for the campaign are by Cone Communications in Boston.

Nestlé, which declined to reveal expenditures for the new campaign, spent $51.5 million in 2012 on domestic advertising for its bottled water brands, according to Kantar Media, part of WPP.

Environmental groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council generally discourage drinking bottled water because of resources required to source, bottle and ship the water, not to mention the impact on the waste stream. But Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, commended Resource for using bottles that contain 50 percent recycled plastic.

“The fact that they are using recycled content in their bottles is something that all beverage companies should emulate,” Mr. Hershkowitz said.

In the United States, Coca-Cola brands use an average of about 5 percent recycled content in plastic bottles and PepsiCo soft drink brands average about 10 percent, the companies said.

As for promoting electrolytes, David G. Schardt, a senior nutritionist at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, noted that Resource stopped short of explicitly claiming they benefit health.

“They’re trying to stay away from F.D.A. interference but it also allows them to leave it up to the consumer to imagine the benefits that might come from electrolytes,” Mr. Schardt said.

With the exception of distilled water, all water contains some naturally occurring electrolytes like sodium and potassium, he said, adding that the added electrolytes in sports drinks are necessary only for extreme exertion.

“Replacing your electrolytes is only an issue for endurance athletes sweating for hours, not a jogger going out for a half-hour,” Mr. Schardt said.

Electrolytes and recycled content aside, Mr. Cooper said the real goal for Resource is to transcend mere beverage status.

“We want to raise it to the level of a lifestyle brand,” he said, “where she’s proud to carry around Resource as her bottled water accessory, so to speak.”

In a deal with “Project Runway,” the reality show on Lifetime, Resource will be featured throughout the 12th season, which will begin on July 18. In one episode the water will be integral to the theme of a design challenge, when fashion designers will be taken to a pastoral setting and challenged with reflecting elements of the natural environment in their designs.

Resource also has signed endorsement deals with Bobbie Thomas, the style editor on the “Today” show on NBC, Aida Mollenkamp, the host of “FoodCrafters” on the Cooking Channel, and Brett Hoebel, a fitness trainer who starred on “The Biggest Loser” on NBC.

It also will participate in fund-raising events for Dress for Success, the organization that provides professional clothing and confidence training to woman struggling to join the work force.

“As we’re trying to reach this new target, the brand is saying we’ve got to come at what their interests are and support their endeavors and causes,” said Leslie Sims, an executive creative director at McCann. “You have to be more interesting than just touting product benefits.”


Klamath tribes, feds call in water rights

The Oregonian

Doug Bectel

June 10, 2013


he Klamath Tribes and the federal government called their water rights in southern Oregon’s Klamath Basin for the first time Monday, likely cutting off irrigation water to hundreds of cattle ranchers and farmers in the upper basin this summer.

The historic calls come after Oregon set water rights priorities earlier this year in the basin, home to one of the nation’s most persistent water wars. Drought has cut water flows in upper basin rivers to 40 percent of normal.

“This is a devastating day,” said Becky Hyde, a longtime cattle rancher in the upper basin’s Sprague River Valley. “This is such a core piece of our economy. It’s not like we can lean back on tourism and things can be OK.”


Petition to stop Warren Buffet from putting algaecide in Klamath River

Petition by Regina Chichizola, United States

Recently PacifiCorp quietly submitted a plan to apply toxins for the second year to Klamath River reservoirs as an algae killing experiment. River users, including fisherman and Native American Tribes unanimously oppose this action citing last year’s studies that show killing the algae actually releases the algae toxin, microcystin, at a time of year when people are in the Klamath River.

Levels of microcystin behind PacifiCorp have consistently been up to 3000 times over the World Health Organization limits for recreation contact. This has lead to the entire river below the reservoirs has been declared a health hazard every late summer for the past five years. Studies, commissioned through the Klamath dam relicensing process have proven the reservoirs create the algae.

The fact is it is time for PacifiCorp to move forward with needed Clean Water Act certification to remove their dams, which create the algae problem. PacifiCorp has stated publicly they want to remove the dams, but have not taken any needed legal actions to support dam removal in years.

PacifiCorp’s has state this proposal is part of an experiment proposed under interim measures of the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA). The KHSA is tied to Klamath water sharing legislation that died in the last Congress. Last year PacifiCorp did a simalr experiment without giving any notification of the chemical use to river users, or initiating public comment. This has lead parties to the KHSA that oppose chemical use in the Klamath River to initiate a conflict resolution process available for those who signed the agreement. However PacifiCorp has indicated they have no plans to initiate a public comment period or to notify the public of when the chemicals will be used.

This has lead to claims that PacifiCorp is using stalled out agreements to essentially make the Klamath a corporately controlled river. Needed Clean Water Act processes and other environmental regulations have been stalled by the promise of Klamath legislation for nearly a decade. It is time to move forward with dam removal