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The Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge - one of the Pacific Flyway's critical waterfowl breeding, molting and migration staging areas - is being starved of essential water supplies.

The refuge is last in line for water, and increasing amounts of water are being withheld from the refuge - held in Klamath Lake or sent down the Klamath River - to help endangered fish. Meanwhile, LKNWR is turning into a duck desert.

Image of magazine infographic

This is not just a Northeastern California issue. It affects waterfowl populations throughout the Pacific Flyway because LKNWR provides (when it has water) essential habitat at critical times in their life cycles. California mallards breed there in large numbers. Mallards and other ducks that breed throughout the state rely on the Basin to provide safe haven when they need to molt in late summer - a process that leaves them flightless for 30-60 days. And migrators rely on the refuge for rest and refueling during their migrations north and south each year.

California Waterfowl is grateful to have critical support from the region's farmers, who have sent their water to the Lower Klamath and Tule Lake national wildlife refuges repeatedly in times of need.

But we also remain dedicated to a sustainable, enduring solution to the problem. California Waterfowl's chief goals are to secure high-priority water rights for the refuge and to secure an agreement to distribute water equitably in the Klamath Basin. And as we work toward those goals, we continue to seek every possible drop of water we can get for the refuge in the meantime.

Key reading:

  • A critical breakthrough in the fight for Klamath: acquiring water rights: Please click here to read more (Sept. 3, 2021 article).
  • A detailed explanation of what's causing Klamath's problem: Please click here (article from Summer 2019 issue of California Waterfowl).
  • A look at Lower Klamath's importance to the Pacific Flyway, and the impact of reduced water deliveries: Please click here (PDF).
  • An explanation of "biological opinions" and their role in keeping Lower Klamath dry: Please click here.
  • Announcement of the California Waterfowl task force that is pushing hard to solve this problem: Please click here.
  • To see all our coverage of Klamath news, including links to newspaper articles, please click here.

Our efforts, media coverage and the latest developments

May 25, 2022

CWA Secures State Funding to Support Water Transfer for Lower Klamath NWR

California Waterfowl entered into a contract with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to fund the transfer of up to 3,750 acre-feet of irrigation water from a landowner in the Wood River Valley of Oregon to help flood Unit 2 and other wetland habitat at the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge.

Apr 20, 2022

CWA Funds Spring 2022 Water Delivery to Lower Klamath Refuge

In light of ongoing drought and significantly reduced wetland habitat conditions, California Waterfowl has entered into a contract with Klamath Drainage District (KDD), farmers located north of the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge, to purchase up to 2,000 acre-feet of agricultural drain water to help maintain water levels in Unit 2 and possibly also flood Unit 3.

Dec 2, 2021

Infrastructure bill: an opportunity for Lower Klamath

The massive federal infrastructure bill signed into law by the president on Nov. 15 provides a significant opportunity to aid the parched Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge: $162 million to be used by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service earmarked for “Klamath Basin restoration activities.” 



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Connect with our team that's fighting for Klamath


Mark Hennelly, VP Legislative Affairs & Public Policy

916-648-1406 ext. 105
Email Mark


Rob Plath, Chairman, Lower Klamath Refuge Task Force

Email Rob