1.) Identify the stakeholders.
2.) Identify what is at stake for each stakeholder.
3.) Identify what ethical conflicts or dilemmas (remembering the correct definition ofdilemma) the case presents.
4.) Given our discussion of environmental ethics, what, if any, might a feasible resolution be to the ethical conflicts or dilemmas you've identified.
5.) Be sure to include in your analysis a discussion of anthropocentric vs. eco-centric values, as well as any other pertinent ideas recently under discussion, or any of the ethical doctrines introduced over the course of the year.
As always, feel free to constructively reference each other's ideas in your own work.
Contested Water Rights in the Klamath River Basin
Keller and Jared Smith for the 2004 Association for Practical and Professional
Ethics (APPE) Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl. Reprinted with permission of
In the arid western U.S., water is the source of numerous highly antagonistic
political disputes. Simply put, demand far exceeds supply, with tensions
between competing interests escalating in dry years.
The Klamath Basin of Oregon is the site of such a conflict between farmers,
ranchers, tribal fisheries, wildlife refuges, and federal agencies. Tensions
heightened during the summer of 2001, when drought substantially lowered
the level of Upper Klamath Lake.
In accordance with the Endangered Species Act, in order to protect a species
of lake sucker fish, the federal government decided to cut off irrigation water
to farms and ranches that depend on the flow from the Klamath River.
According to The Oregonian, the economic losses for that year are estimated
to be as high as $134–$250 million. Critics of the decision assert that the
real threat to the long-term survival fertilizer which runs off from agricultural
fields into the watershed and causes high levels of nutrients in the lake, not
lower water levels.
Local native Americans and commercial fishing interests supported the
federal government’s decision and opposed the farmers and ranchers, citing
the need to maintain fisheries. In the spring of 2002, a group of ranchers
formed the Klamath Basin Rangeland Trust with the goal of regaining their
collective water rights. The alliance was praised by Interior Secretary Gale
Norton and President Bush. A group of farmers and irrigation districts also
sought an injunction in federal court to prohibit dam operators from
depriving them of water.
Yet despite the conservation measures that were already implemented to
protect the integrity of the riparian ecosystem, by September 2002, the
lowered water levels and resulting warmer temperature of the river led to a
devastating outbreak of crowding and disease which killed 20,000–30,000
salmon and wiped out the fishing industry for that year. It became obvious
that there simply wasn’t enough water to cover the demands of both
agriculture and aquaculture.
This led to increasing efforts to break the deadlock by purchasing water
rights from coalitions of farmers and ranchers in order to develop a “water
bank”—a sustained higher lake level in the Upper Klamath. Taxpayer
advocates criticized this solution, pointing out that the plan cost taxpayers
$189 per acre-foot of water, or six times the average regional value and
twenty times the value of water from pastures in other parts of Oregon.
Klamath basin water rights have been tied up in litigation. While several
court cases have established the jurisdiction of the Oregon Department of
Water Resources in adjudicating the disputed claims, they have not indicated
how that is going to be accomplished. The outcome is still uncertain, but one
thing is for sure: the resolution depends on something other than the