The Oregon Water Resources Department through Department 512 Rulemaking for the Malheur Lake Basin in 2016 created an Area of Concern for groundwater within Harney County. A link to the final rules can be found here…Chapter690Div512Web
This rule making also created a local advisory committee that meets Quarterly with members of OWRD, USGS, the Harney County Court and local landowners. Several members of the Watershed council serve on this Advisory Committee.
Static water levels are being measured quarterly, with synoptic measurements taken twice per year. Look for notices of when measuring is taking place on our Meetings & Events page.
Updates for the Groundwater Local Advisory Committee and meeting materials can be found at bit.ly/malheurlakebasin
Outcomes of this study should be answered by one of the three statements listed below:
- The Groundwater resource is not fully allocated in all or parts of the basin and can support more development.
- The Groundwater resource is fully allocated in all or parts of the basin and cannot support more development
- The Groundwater resource is over-appropriated, in all or parts of the basin and the permitted groundwater usage is not sustainable.
Past projects that contributed to the Groundwater Study
The Harney County Watershed Council received grant funding from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board to organize a groundwater study in the Harney Basin.
The Harney Basin Groundwater Investigation is a phased approach to creating a permanent but flexible modeling tool for the Harney Basin. We feel that a proactive move to determine the characteristics of the groundwater in varied areas of the basin will prevent critical regulatory or enforcement actions in the future, caused by a lack of knowledge of the basin’s geo-hydrology. The development of this information will benefit in the acquisition of funds for upgrading irrigation systems and more efficient use of the basin’s groundwater. Objectives include protecting existing water rights, protecting the natural resource and collecting meaningful data that will allow us to be good stewards of the basin’s groundwater, and to protect the resource for future generations. The purpose of this study is to determine whether or not multiple aquifers exist within the Basin, to find out where there is adequate water supply to support more groundwater development and to identify areas where existing water rights may need protection.
May 2009 Phase I: OWEB grant 209-5053 Landowner Outreach – Contact all landowner/stakeholders within the project boundaries to ask for support, cooperation and information.
December 2009 Phase II: OWEB grant 210-5001 Data Gathering
July 2011 Phase III: OWEB grant 211-5030 Data Analysis
Status: Completed Harney_County_Final_12_27_2012
Phase IV: Construction of monitoring wells and multi year monitoring with concurrent development of surface water models.
Status: This grant was not pursued through OWEB, but is currently being addressed through the OWRD/USGS groundwater study.
Phase V: Construct and analyze computerized flow models depicting the interaction of surface water with defined aquifers.
Status: This grant was not pursued through OWEB but is currently being developed through the OWRD/USHS groundwater study.
What is at stake? There is the potential for basin wide regulatory action. Areas within the basin with adequate groundwater supply could be penalized due to the fact that we do not have credible data to prove multiple aquifers exist within the basin. Without documentation this could affect us basin wide, instead of just where problems are identified. Property values could decrease, economic development could be affected. Depletion of groundwater could affect all users.
The Harney County Watershed Council is not a part of county government, we are a volunteer non-profit 501(c)(3) organization whose mission and purpose is to retain, enhance or restore high quality watershed in the Malheur Lakes Basin which includes all of Harney County. Please join us in protecting our most precious commodity and resource, Harney Basin’s groundwater.
Currently the Watershed Council has two groundwater monitoring projects to monitor ground water static levels in several areas of the Harney Basin for the next five years. We are cooperating with the OWRD/USGS monitoring project.