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KLAMATH BASIN STUDY
The American farm worker today feeds 33
people as compared to 7 he fed in 1900.
One reason for this fantastic growth in agri-
cultural efficiency is the use of pesticides, herbi-
cides, synthetic fertilizers, and other products
of our new petrochemistry.
But now cries of alarm are being heard.
Questions are being asked. To what extent
are these chemicals affecting our water sup-
ply? Are they endangering the recreational use
of water? Is runoff from lands treated with
toxic chemicals injuring fish and waterfowl?
In recent years many instances of wildfowl
poisoning have been noted in Louisiana, Ar-
kansas, and other States. In Texas, one
sampling of wintering wildfowl on the Gulf
Coast showed that more than half the birds
had DDT or related compounds in their
In an area of about 2,000 square miles lying
astride the central portion of the Oregon-Cali-
fornia border, the Federal Water Pollution
Control Administration is conducting a special
study to find the answers to these questions.
This area was selected upon request of the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Klamath
River Compact Commission (California-
Oregon), and numerous wildlife and sporting
organizations. They were alarmed by the
--o 7 _: 'a
City of Klamath Falls, Oreg., showing in back-
ground main supply canal from Klamath Lake
death of hundreds of birds each year from
unknown causes, and by the discovery of in-
secticidal residues in impoundments on the
Tule-Klamath Refuge in California. The
Refuge's water supply is provided by the runoff
from surrounding irrigated land that has been
treated with chemicals. Hunting, fishing,
water contact sports, trapping, and boating,
all important sources of revenue in the area, are
being jeopardized owing to the public's un-
certainty about the quality of water in the
entire Klamath River Basin.
Information gathered from the Administra-
tion's study will naturally have important
consequences on similar areas in other parts of
History of the Area
The area under study, less than half the size
of Rhode Island, is one of the great migratory
wildfowl resting grounds on the North Amer-
ican continent. The five waterfowl refuges in
the Klamath Basin, located at the junction of
two major routes in the Pacific Flyway, attract
birds whose numbers have been estimated in
excess of 7 million. Among them are mallards,
redheads, gadwalls, white pelicans, California
and ring-billed gulls, Caspian terns, and blue
View of Klamath Falls with Klamath Lake
The area won an important place in con-
servation history when Lower Klamath Lake
was designated by Executive Order dated
August 8, 1908 as the first sanctuary for mi-
gratory waterfowl in the United States. Lower
Klamath was then an overflow sump of more
than 80,000 acres, and a true biological won-
derland. But during the next quarter century,
drainage and drought had a catastrophic effect
upon the marshes. They shrank almost to
nothingness. For years remedial action was
delayed by public inertia and by conflicting
philosophies between those who desired to
farm as much of the sump as possible and
those who desired to maintain it as waterfowl
But in the middle 1930's intensified droughts
and the tireless efforts of a small group of con-
servationists headed by J. N. "Ding" Darling
helped to resolve these differences, and stimu-
lated the raising of funds and public support.
A simple but effective program was worked out
that brought constructive results without major
sacrifice of either wildlife or irrigation interests.
Air view of Lost River at Bonanza Springs
Overshooting was radically reduced, marsh
restoration was started by the U.S. Wildlife
Service, greater volumes of water poured into
Tule Lake and Lower Klamath, and today
few refuges can boast of a greater mixed goose
population, or a greater number or variety of
ducks under protection, than these.
About 56,000 young birds a year are raised
on more than 125,000 acres of high-quality
duck production habitat composed of five wild-
life refuges: Clear Lake, California; Upper
Klamath, Oregon; Tule Lake, California;
Lower Klamath, California and Oregon; and
Klamath Marsh and Forest, Oregon.
Description of Basin
The study is concentrating on a 137-mile
stretch of Lost River between Oregon and
California; and on a 30-mile stretch of the
Klamath River between Klamath Falls, Ore-
gon, and Big Bend Power House at Keno.
Much has been done to make the area suitable
for agriculture and stock watering. To irrigate
the lands located south and southeast of the
city of Klamath Falls and both sides of Lost
River, water stores in Upper Klamath Lake are
diverted near the head of the Link River
through a canal. Return irrigation waters
reach Lost River and are used again in the
Lower Klamath-Tule Lake area in California.
Pump plant F, showing some main discharge
pumps of the Lost River system
The Klamath Strait drainage canal returns ex-
cess irrigation water from the Lower Klamath
and Tule Lake area by means of a pumping
plant which lifts the return water to the Kla-
math River near Gorr Island.
Principal dischargers of wastes to the system
are the city of Klamath Falls, Oregon; the
South Suburban Sanitary District, Klamath
Falls; the lumber industry, Klamath Falls; the
potato packing and starch industry at Hatfield,
California; agriculture; meat packing; Federal
wet lands and State and Federal wildlife man-
Largest bodies of water in the region are
Klamath Lake (98,400 acres); Clear Lake
(24,800 acres); Tule Lake Sumps (13,000
acres) ; Lower Klamath Lakes (13,000 acres);
and Gerber Reservoir (3,850 acres). Popula-
tion of the upper basin and the project area
is estimated at 54,000. For the entire basin,
the population is 91,000.
Objectives of Project
This study, begun in December 1963,
should be completed by June 1969. At its
peak, it will employ some 22 persons including
sanitary engineers, biologists, chemists, and
various types of technicians. Its specific
objectives are to:
1. Measure and identify pollutants respon-
sible for wildlife and fish mortality.
2. Determine the relationship between land
use and pollutants.
3. Determine the extent to which irrigation
water application practices increase or decrease
the concentration of mineral pollutants in
4. Recommend and test practices for the
control or elimination of possible damaging
effects caused by pesticides and other pollut-
ants used in various agricultural practices, wet-
lands, and wildlife management.
5. Determine the effects of nutrients and
other fertilizers which leach through the soil
or run off directly into surface waters.
A section of Klamath River adjacent to Klamath
Falls, Oreg. In the distance a portion of the
Lost River system is visible.
To accomplish these objectives four basic
programs were established:
1. Computation of waterflows, including
studies of water entering and leaving the area,
evaporation rates, and ground water supplies.
2. Obtaining an overall mineral balance of
the Lost River drainage area, with the assist-
ance of a mathematical model that is being
devised for the entire Basin.
3. Measuring, qualitatively and quantita-
tively, the pesticides at key locations and trac-
ing their buildup in the refuges and the
4. Determining the effects of these contam-
inants upon fish, bottom-dwelling organisms,
plankton, algae, and other aquatic plants.
This is accomplished by collecting samples of
ecological communities and analyzing them for
Upper Lost River during lowflows
The first task of the project was to establish
a headquarters at Klamath Falls, and to equip
a laboratory with the latest devices for measur-
The principal method of pesticide analysis
will utilize gas chromatography which enables
scientists to measure amounts of pesticides in
the range of one part per trillion.
The laboratory is also equipped with an in-
frared spectrophotometer, an instrument capa-
ble of demonstrating the nature of any organic
Two low carbon filters have been installed
in the Lost River drainage basin. They rep-
resent another good way of collecting and
identifying some types of pesticides.
The comprehensive biological reconnais-
sance of benthic (bottom-dwelling) organisms
in the Lost River system has been completed.
A substrate sampler developed by the U.S.
Public Health Service proved to be a valuable
A project engineer and a project biologist set out
to take samples from the main diversion canal.
Land use maps, data on pesticide applica-
tions, on sanitation of the Lost River drainage
area, and on many other subjects have been
collected in collaboration with many agencies,
including the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the
U.S. Weather Bureau, the Oregon State Sani-
tary Authority, irrigation districts, and local
Sampling activities have been coordinated
with the California Departments of Water Re-
sources, Department of Fish and Game, and
the North Coastal Regional Water Pollution
During 1966, project staff will be collecting
benthic (bottom-dwelling) samples at 22 sta-
tions, plankton at 5 stations, and fish and am-
phibia at key locations in both polluted and
clean water areas. Organisms will be identi-
fied and classified, and the kinds and quantities
of pesticides they may contain will be ascer-
By the end of the year it is expected that the
pesticide reconnaissance of the Lost River sys-
tem will be completed, and the project's mathe-
matical model will have been revised to accept
data on pesticide input.
This device installed at a main pumping plant at
Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge, California,
is packed with granular carbon particles which
adsorb organic compounds.
Continuing programs will cover the diffu-
sion and circulation of pesticides within the
river system, and monitoring agricultural, in-
dustrial, and domestic waste discharges.
As indicated above, many agencies and in-
stitutions are assisting in these studies. Among
those not previously mentioned are the Univer-
sity of California, the Columbia River Basin
Water Quality Project, the Robert A. Taft
Sanitary Engineering Center, and the Cali-
fornia Academy of Science.
In addition, two local groups are giving im-
portant assistance. The Tule Lake Pesticide
Review Committee, whose primary function
is to discuss various pesticide problems of the
basin, have been providing contacts and
sources of information. The Committee's 15
members hold positions with the University
of California, the Tule Lake National Wildlife
Refuge, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the
California Department of Fish and Game, the
Tule Lake Irrigation District, the Modoc
County Agricultural Commission of America,
and the Lava Beds National Monument.
The Klamath County Agricultural Council
is assisting in the collection and evaluation of
farm data, other land and water use, and pesti-
cide application data. Most of the Council's
members are farmers, but the U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation, the Federal Water Pollution
Control Administration, agriculture extension
agencies, and other groups are also represented
on the Council.
U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE : 1966-0-799-354
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
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Snow geese resting along edge of Lower Sump
adjoining Frog Pond
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