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The Klamath Basin Water Crisis

Water Supply and Demand


MeghanMarie Fowler-Finn
Division of Student Transportation
Office of the State Superintendent of Education


In this case study, students examine global water shortage problems in the context of the current Klamath Basin water crisis. Two main perspectives are addressed, agriculture and the environment, along with multiple other perspectives including Native Americans, hydroelectric dams, and the fishing industry. Students learn about and discuss competing interests for water and analyze and critique scientific data, maps, and graphs. The case was developed for a social sciences track environmental studies course. It could be used in an environmental science, ethics, or policy course as well as in water management or agriculture classes.


  • Understand implications, causes, and possible solutions of a water shortage.
  • Read and understand the maps and graphs presented in the PowerPoint slides.
  • Think critically about several sides of the case, with which they may or may not agree.
  • Critique the presentation of scientific data presented in the PowerPoint slides.
  • Write a paper outlining their own solution for the crisis and detailing future possible problems.


Water shortage; water rights; water resources; freshwater; watershed; endangered species; Native American rights, hydroelectric dams; fishing; farming; irrigation; Klamath Basin; California; Oregon

Topical Areas

Policy issues, Regulatory issues, Scientific argumentation, Social issues, Social justice issues

Educational Level

Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division


PDF, PowerPoint

Type / Methods

Dilemma/Decision, Public Hearing, Role-Play



Subject Headings

Environmental Science  |   Natural Resource Management  |  

Date Posted


Teaching Notes

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Supplemental Materials

This case includes a PowerPoint presentation (~1.1MB) that examines fresh water shortages, the purpose of national wildlife refuges, the depletion of water in the Klamath Basin, agriculture and its impact on fresh water supplies, hydroelectric dams and their impacts, fish losses, the rights of Native Americans, and the rights and obligations of the fishing industry.

  Klamath Power Point