Drought-triggered water shutoffs in the upper Klamath Basin that have been drying up irrigated pasture for tens of thousands of cattle will soon extend to the creek that serves as the sole source of drinking water for Crater Lake National Park.
But Superintendent Craig Ackerman told The Associated Press that the park will stay open through the summer with an emergency conservation plan, which includes trucking in water, turning off campground showers and deploying 120 portable toilets.
Ackerman said the measures are being taken despite having 5 trillion gallons of the “cleanest drinking water on earth” sitting smack in the middle of the park.
“Our in-stream water right for the lake is to preserve the natural characteristics of the lake by leaving the water in it,” he said. “Taking public water out of the lake would be in opposition to the purpose the park was created, as well as having a significant environmental impact.”
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Crater Lake is Oregon’s only national park. It was created in May 1902 to protect the lake, the nation’s deepest and clearest body of water. It formed in the caldera left after Mount Mazama erupted more than 7,000 years ago.
This year’s snowfall of 29 feet at the park was 15 feet short of normal, contributing to low streamflows in the Klamath Basin. Late snowfalls that sometimes come in April and May never materialized.
Also this year, the state adopted the first system of water rights for the upper Klamath Basin. That gave the oldest water rights, dating to time immemorial, to the Klamath Tribes for fisheries conservation on rivers flowing through their former reservation lands. State watermasters have been shutting off irrigation diversions for ranches with junior water rights to meet the flows due the tribes.
The park’s water is drawn from Annie Creek, a tributary of the Wood River. Dating to May 1902, the park’s water right is 28th in priority, Ackerman said.
Visitors to Crater Lake Lodge will still be able to shower and flush toilets, but servers at the dining room and other eateries will not put out water unless it is asked for, he said. Housing for park personnel and concession employees will be equipped with low-flow showerheads, faucets and toilets.