Restoring Instream Flows: Rivers Need Water

Session Date & Time: 
May 7, 2012 - 4:00pm
Session Length: 
90 minutes
Skill Level: 

Erica Terence, Klamath Riverkeeper

Crystal Bowman, Karuk Tribe

Rivers and streams are dewatered throughout the West despite strong laws on the books designed to protect in-stream flows. This can be caused by over-allocation of water rights - meaning the government has given away rights to more water than is available. It also can be caused by climate change and/or illegal surface water diversions or unregulated groundwater withdrawals.

This workshop proposes creative ways we may be able to resolve in-stream flow problems from the point of view of a scientist, a legal/policy expert and an advocate/activist, all of whom have faced severe in-stream flow challenges. Activists and/or organizations seeking to address in-stream flow problems (and resulting water quality, hydrology and habitat changes) in their own watersheds are encouraged to attend.

On a broader scale, this workshop will explore the important role stream flow plays in an ecosystem, the impairments that can result in an ecosystem from lack of flow, and the inherent risks of demanding in-stream flows in our rivers.

On a nuts and bolts level, this workshop will focus on the causes of and remedies for depleted in-stream flows.

Remedies to be discussed include:

• Voluntary dedications of in-stream flows

• Legal:

-ESA, Clean Water Act

-Public Trust Doctrine, California Fish and Game Code, California Water Code

-Wild and Scenic Rivers Act

-Adjudications and Re-adjudications

• Political and media pressure

-Pushing agencies to enforce laws

-groundwater regulations*

-Records requests

-Bad Press

• Best available science

-Literature review

-Citizen monitoring

-Agency coordination

-Hire your own expert to do water modeling

•Grassroots Action

-Occupation (in streambed and/or agency offices)

The presentations in this workshop will be rooted in stream flow depletion case studies from the Klamath River watershed, where activists are pushing the envelope with flow problems from many different angles. But each watershed has its own unique set of in-stream flow circumstances, and attendees will be invited to ask questions, tell their own stories and pitch ideas in the later part of the workshop.

The greater goal of the workshop is to create a framework for understanding in-stream flow issues, then taking action in our own watersheds that can be integrated into a larger movement to protect in-stream flows. We aim to build a coalition and platform for people combating in-stream flow problems, thereby strengthening the call and the case for flow remedies to be implemented.

  • Note to River Network/Waterkeeper Alliance: Recognizing that groundwater could easily be an entire workshop of its own, we are volunteering to put together a separate workshop that focuses entirely on the relationships between surface water and groundwater, and how to cope with the impacts of groundwater pumping on stream flows. Similar to the goal of this proposed workshop, we have a substantial interest in building a larger network of groundwater reform advocates and a campaign to address groundwater issues in our watersheds collectively. We are envisioning a flows part 1 and 2 series of workshops. Let us know if you want us to put together a groundwater/flows workshop and we will.
Presenter Bio(s): 

Erica Terence is the Conservation Director and Executive Director of Klamath Riverkeeper. She was born and raised in the rural watershed that she now works to protect, and she bring her passion for that place to her work as an advocate and activist running a small but effective non-profit organization.

Crystal Bowman is the Director of the Karuk Tribe's Water Quality Department. The Karuk Tribe is the second largest tribe in California, with aboriginal territory reaching along hundreds of miles of the Klamath River and its tributaries. Formerly the Director of the Quartz Valley Tribe's Environmental Protection Agency, Crystal is a fish biologist and water quality scientist by training who has witnessed first-hand the devastating impacts dewatering can have on fish and human communities.

Third presenter, TBD, will cover the legal and policy aspects of instream flows and dewatering.