Evaluation of hydrologic impact of an irrigation curtailment program in the Upper Klamath Lake Basin using Landsat satellite data

Hydrological Processes
By: , and 



Upper Klamath Lake (UKL) is the source of the Klamath river that flows through southern Oregon and northern California. The UKL basin is home to two endangered species and provides water for 81,000+ ha (200,000+ acres) of irrigation on the United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) Klamath Project located downstream of the UKL basin. Irrigated agriculture also occurs along the tributaries to UKL. During 2013–2016, water right calls resulted in various levels of curtailment of irrigation diversions from the tributaries to UKL. However, information on the extent of curtailment, how much irrigation water was saved, and its impact on the UKL is unknown. In this study, we combined Landsat-based actual evapotranspiration (ETa) data obtained from the Operational Simplified Surface Energy Balance (SSEBop) model with gridded precipitation and USGS station discharge data to evaluate the hydrologic impact of the curtailment program. Analysis was performed for five base years (2004, 2006, 2008-2010) and four target years (2013-2016) over irrigated areas above UKL. Our results indicated that the impact of the curtailment program over the June to September time-period was highest during 2013 and declined in each of the following years. The total on-field water savings were approximately 60 hm3 in 2013 and 2014, 44 hm3 in 2015, and 32 hm3 in 2016. The instream water flow change or extra water available (EWA) were found at 92, 68, 45, and 26 hm3 respectively for 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. Most water savings came from pasture and wetlands. Alfalfa showed the most decline in water use among grain crops. The resulting EWA from the curtailment contributed to a maximum of 19% of the lake inflows and 50% of the lake volume. This study presents the use of Landsat-based ETa and other remote sensing datasets for evaluating water-related impacts of the irrigation curtailment program.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Evaluation of hydrologic impact of an irrigation curtailment program in the Upper Klamath Lake Basin using Landsat satellite data
Series title Hydrological Processes
DOI 10.1002/hyp.13708
Volume 34
Issue 8
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center, Oregon Water Science Center
Description 17 p.
First page 1697
Last page 1713
Country California, Oregon
Other Geospatial Upper Klamath Lake Basin
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page