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Crater Lake to haul water

Despite an above-average snowpack, Crater Lake National Park is experiencing a water shortage.

Tanker trucks will begin hauling water to the park early next week after the Klamath Tribes called their water claim on the Wood River system, where the park normally gets its water supply.

The tribes, which hold the most senior water right, called the claim to keep water in the streams after analyses showed flows in the Wood River weren't high enough to maintain healthy riparian habitats for native plants and fisheries.

The state instructed the park not to withdraw water from Annie Creek, a tributary of the Wood River and the park's water source.

Crater Lake Superintendent Craig Ackerman said tanker trucks will transport potable water to the park's water system beginning Monday or Tuesday. The cost for water delivery for May, with an option for June, is nearly $400,000.

"We are going to do everything we can to not have this affect visitor experiences," Ackerman said.

The park typically uses about 36,000 gallons of water a day in May and 42,000 gallons a day in June. Those figures nearly double during the prime visitation months of July and August.

Because of previous concerns about water shortages, since 2013 the park has been developing a well that uses ground water. Once the well is completed this summer, the park will have an alternative source of water to use during times of surface-water shortages.

Ackerman said the process of obtaining permits for the well, identifying and obtaining funding, digging the well and meeting numerous environmental and other compliance regulations, along with other mandatory steps, has been a slow process. The final step, digging a milelong underground water line from the well to the treatment facility, is scheduled this summer. Timing is uncertain because there is still more than 10 feet of snow along the intended waterline route.

Cost for the well, which is being developed by the Contractor Service Group of West Sacramento, California, is $874,000. Funding is provided from Crater Lake's park entrance fee fund.

Park officials also are working to access water from the well source with a temporary pump before the water line to the treatment plant is completed. Once that's in place, the park will require less water to be transported from outside areas — though water will still have to be transported from the well to the park's water system.

Four 5,000-gallon water storage tanks will be located near Annie Creek. Snowplow crews are working to clear the area for the tanks. Tankers from the contractor, Action Sanitary of Lower Lake, California, will carry 6,000 gallons of water per load.

Until the new well is operational, Ackerman said, all visitors and employees are being asked to use water wisely during the shortage.

“We are doing everything we can to remain open with limited water service,” he said. “We need our visitors’ support and assistance to conserve water by heeding our water-saving tips.”

To reduce water use, visitors can bring their own drinking water, while people staying overnight — Crater Lake Lodge opens May 19 and the cabins at Mazama Village open May 26 — can take shorter showers, turn off the water while brushing their teeth and reuse sheets and towels to cut down on laundry.

Ackerman emphasized that low-flow fixtures, including toilets, shower heads, faucets and washing machines, have been installed in park facilities and residences in recent years. Since 2005, the park's concessionaire, Xanterra Parks & Resorts, has been replacing standard fixtures in concession facilities with low-flow models. The company has also modified operations to reduce water consumption.

There are no plans to use water from the lake itself because, as park officials emphasize, the primary purpose of the park is to preserve the lake and there's no mechanism for transporting the water to park facilities.

More information about Crater Lake’s water shortage action plan is available at www.nps.gov/crla/planyourvisit/water-shortage-frequently-asked-questions.htm.

— Reach Lee Juillerat at 337lee337@charter.net or 541-880-4139.

Despite an above-average snowpack, Crater Lake National Park must import water after the Klamath Tribes called their claim on the park's normal water supply. [Mail Tribune / file photo]