Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Comparison of historical streamflows to 2013 Streamflows in the Williamson, Sprague, and Wood Rivers, Upper Klamath Lake Basin, Oregon

June 26, 2014

In 2013, the Upper Klamath Lake Basin, Oregon, experienced a dry spring, resulting in an executive order declaring a state of drought emergency in Klamath County. The 2013 drought limited the water supply and led to a near-total cessation of surface-water diversions for irrigation above Upper Klamath Lake once regulation was implemented. These conditions presented a unique opportunity to understand the effects of water right regulation on streamflows.

The effects of regulation of diversions were evaluated by comparing measured 2013 streamflow with data from hydrologically similar years. Years with spring streamflow similar to that in 2013 measured at the Sprague River gage at Chiloquin from water years 1973 to 2012 were used to define a Composite Index Year (CIY; with diversions) for comparison to measured 2013 streamflows (no diversions). The best-fit 6 years (1977, 1981, 1990, 1991, 1994, and 2001) were used to determine the CIY.

Two streams account for most of the streamflow into Upper Klamath Lake: the Williamson and Wood Rivers. Most streamflow into the lake is from the Williamson River Basin, which includes the Sprague River. Because most of the diversion regulation affecting the streamflow of the Williamson River occurred in the Sprague River Basin, and because of uncertainties about historical flows in a major diversion above the Williamson River gage, streamflow data from the Sprague River were used to estimate the change in streamflow from regulation of diversions for the Williamson River Basin. Changes in streamflow outside of the Sprague River Basin were likely minor relative to total streamflow.

The effect of diversion regulation was evaluated using the “Baseflow Method,” which compared 2013 baseflow to baseflow of the CIY. The Baseflow Method reduces the potential effects of summer precipitation events on the calculations. A similar method using streamflow produced similar results, however, despite at least one summer precipitation event. The result of the analysis estimates that streamflow from the Williamson River Basin to Upper Klamath Lake increased by approximately 14,100 acre-feet between July 1 and September 30 relative to prior dry years as a result of regulation of surface-water diversions in 2013.

Quantifying the change in streamflow from regulation of diversion for the Wood River Basin was likely less accurate due to a lack of long-term streamflow data. An increase in streamflow from regulation of diversions in the Wood River Basin of roughly 5,500 acre-feet was estimated by comparing the average August and September streamflow in 2013 with historical August and September streamflow.

Summing the results of the estimated streamflow gain of the Williamson River Basin (14,100 acre-feet) and Wood River (5,500 acre-feet) gives a total estimated increase in streamflow into Upper Klamath Lake resulting from the July 1–September 2013 regulation of diversions of approximately 19,600 acre-feet.

Publication Year 2014
Title Comparison of historical streamflows to 2013 Streamflows in the Williamson, Sprague, and Wood Rivers, Upper Klamath Lake Basin, Oregon
DOI 10.3133/ofr20141128
Authors Glen W. Hess, Adam J. Stonewall
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2014-1128
Index ID ofr20141128
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Oregon Water Science Center