You are invited to spend a day without water.  Think about it... no drinking from the tap, no washing your hands, no flushing the toilet. 

Ready?  October 23rd is the day the Jackson Soil and Water Conservation District and other agencies come together to talk about the importance of water and its conservation. 


Des Moines, Iowa, in the heart of the grain belt, gets about three feet of precipitation every year.  But the real heart of American agriculture is California's Central Valley, where about a third that much water falls in a year. 

From the earliest days of white settlement, California's booming economy--whether based on mining or agriculture--has required amounts of water nature did not provide.  Mark Arax, son of a farm family in the valley, tells the story anew in The Dreamt Land: Chasing Water and Dust Across California

He tells of practices past and present that provide prosperity while depleting the land. 

Mark Schuster/U.S. Department of the Interior

Waterways around the region are protected from development and pollution by a number of programs.  Some are in the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers system. 

Oregon offers its own kind of protection under the designation of "Outstanding Resource Waters."  The state Environmental Quality Commissioner recently agreed to move ahead with the designation for both Waldo Lake and Crater Lake, both in the Cascades. 

The Department of Environmental Quality is embarking on the planning process. 


In the west, water is a constant battleground; there's great demand and a lot less supply.

Drawing on her childhood grwing up in the arid west, Becca Lawton's essays dive into the the many ways that water--or the lack of it--shape our part of the world.  She collects the essays in The Oasis This Time: Living and Dying with Water in the West.

The author lives in Summer Lake, Oregon and runs the nonprofit PLAYA.

She gives a reading Sunday (August 4th) at the Ashland Public Library. 


Shasta Big Springs Ranch in Siskiyou County is one of the few places in the country where salmon spawned in a stream right next to cows.  So there was great optimism when the Nature Conservancy bought the ranch. 

Then the organization turned around and sold some of the water rights to recoup its investment, and the grumbling from neighbors of the ranch began. 

Journalist Margiana Petersen-Rockney tells the story online at Grist

City of Ashland

An irrigation ditch may be a pleasant place for a streamside stroll, but there are issues in having the water run out in the open.  Evaporation and leakage can let water out, and the open nature of the ditches can let contaminants into the water. 

Which is why irrigation districts prefer pipes to ditches, but those are expensive. 

So the city of Ashland is involved in the plan to run a pipe where there is now a ditch the city owns that carries irrigation water. 


It just seems like magic.  A machine uses wood chips and a few other ingredients to pull moisture out of the air, to produce water.  30 gallons a day, in the smallest unit. 

The name is apt: Skywater; it just won the XPrize competition by perfecting a technology to provide fresh water to places that need it.  David Hertz is the co-founder of the Skywater/Skysource Alliance.

US Bureau of Reclamation

The recent drought years have often left drivers on Interstate Five wondering what happened to Shasta Lake.  The bridges that cross arms of the lake are often high above the water line, and it can be hard to even see water and boats. 

But a plan to raise the height of Shasta Dam by 18 feet is still on the table, in fact got recent funding for design and engineering work.  The move is applauded by Westlands Water District and other water agencies. 

But the dam-raising plan is condemned by Friends of the River and other groups. 


Drought is a regular companion to life in the west.  Even when there's no drought, there's not much rain... Klamath Falls gets 14 inches in a "normal" year. 

Water worries visit other parts of the country as well. 

Julene Bair wrote something like a love story to a landscape and an aquifer in The Ogallala Road: A Story of Love, Family, and the Fight to Keep the Great Plains from Running Dry


California suffered through years of drought, and implemented restrictions on water use.  Then the rains came--a year ago--and the restrictions came off. 

Now the state appears headed for another drought, and there is talk of making water restrictions permanent.  The state Water Resources Control Board hasn't gotten there yet, but plans are on the table. 

That has the attention of water users and people who work on their behalf.  Christopher Neary is a water rights attorney in Northern California; Jennifer Harder teaches law at University of the Pacific


The recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland was not just for national leaders and rich people. 

Plenty of scientists got to hang out there as well, seeking solutions to issues countries can address together.  Those include the new Universities Partnerships for Water Cooperation & Diplomacy, which includes Oregon State University

The basic issue: the world is making new people all the time... but not more water. 

Little Mountain/Wikimedia

The list of dams now removed from the Rogue River and its tributaries is getting longer: Gold Ray, Savage Rapids, Bear Creek, Wimer... and that's just a start. 

It didn't happen overnight, and it didn't happen without resistance. 

The major point: giving fish a chance to get upstream to spawn once again. 

The Rogue River Watershed Council plays a part in recent and planned dam removals. 


You've heard of POTUS and SCOTUS, now meet WOTUS. 

That acronym means Waters Of The United States, and the Obama Administration made a rule identifying even small and frequently dry bodies of water as subject to federal jurisdiction. 

Several states and groups objected, and President Trump ordered the WOTUS rule rescinded. 

The Oregon Farm Bureau supports the move, Trout Unlimited opposes. 

A public comment period is open until August 28th.  Place your comments here.


A lot of rain and snow fell over the winter.  But that does not mean a year without water controversy in the Klamath Basin. 

The Klamath Tribes recently exercised their senior water right in the basin to call for more water to stay in certain streams, potentially withdrawing irrigation water from thousands of acres of agricultural land. 

Klamath Tribal Chair Don Gentry tells us the water is needed to duplicate flood conditions that are a natural part of the ecosystem.

At the same time, ag groups filed suit against the federal government for its plans for water allocations to wildlife refuges. 

The Klamath Water Users Association is in the middle of much of this.


It was just in the last couple of years we had a chat with a California snowpack observer, who reminded us that it's not just the Siskiyous and the Sierra and the San Gabriels that provide water to California... it's also the Rockies. 

Many states lay claim to the waters of the Colorado River. 

And that is just one of many issues facing the stream.  When it IS a stream.  Most of the time, it just dies in the desert. 

New Yorker staff writer David Owen follows the stream and the people who depend upon it, in his book Where the Water Goes


California had to learn and re-learn lessons about water conservation as drought deepened in recent years.  And the lessons will be needed again, because rain now does not mean the end of drought. 

Then there's the backdrop... a state that does not get much rain holds more people than any other state.  How can water use be curtailed, yet allow people and fish to thrive at the same time? 

That will be the central question when the Salmonid Restoration Federation convenes a workshop later this week in Fortuna (Jan. 13th).  We get a preview. 

Weed Faces Water Woes

Feb 23, 2016

You go to the sink and turn the tap, and expect water to come out. 

For half a century, residents of Weed had that same expectation, perhaps unaware that the water was provided on a 50-year lease.  The lease with Roseburg Forest Products expires this June. 

The City of Weed recently warned residents that the loss of water rights would prevent the city from providing water to large portions of town. 

Roseburg insists that negotiations are still going on, and the water supply will not be affected. 

The War On Water Poverty

Dec 28, 2015

Our species is pretty good at making more people.  So far, we have not found ways to create new water. 

And that mismatch is becoming a problem around the planet, a problem the organization Dig Deep refers to as "water poverty". 

Dig Deep works to ensure clean water supplies to people experiencing water poverty, some of them right here in the United States. 


We expect water to come out of the faucet when we turn the handle. 

But the task of providing water gets harder in a drought, and our region has been living with drought conditions for several years. 

A national awareness campaign called "Imagine a Day Without Water" brings together a number of water agencies and interested groups to press the case for wise use and conservation this week (October 6-8). 

Bottling Plant Opponents Sue Crystal Geyser

Sep 9, 2015

Crystal Geyser Water Company is moving ahead with plans to open a water bottling plant in Mount Shasta, but it faces a court challenge first. 

The group W.A.T.E.R., We Advocate Thorough Environmental Review, just filed suit against the company and Siskiyou County, seeking more environmental studies. 

The company says it is disappointed in the suit, but generally does not comment on pending litigation.