Modeling the Water-Quality Effects to the Klamath River from Recirculation in Drains and Canals, Oregon and California, 2006–15

Scientific Investigations Report 2023-5059
Prepared in cooperation with Bureau of Reclamation
By:  and 



The potential recirculation of Klamath Strait Drain (hereafter called by its local name, “Klamath Straits Drain”) water into Ady Canal to reduce the drain discharge of high nutrient loads into the Klamath River was assessed by the U.S. Geological Survey for the Bureau of Reclamation. To study the feasibility of recirculation, this investigation evaluated three recirculation scenarios over a 10-year period from 2006 to 2015, as a series of 1-year model simulations. A combination of two existing hydrodynamic, water-temperature, and water-quality models (CE-QUAL-W2) were used, including (1) the Link-Keno reach of the Klamath River, using Klamath Straits Drain as a tributary and for calendar years 2006–11, and (2) the same Link-Keno model used for calendar years 2012–15 in combination with an independent Klamath Straits Drain model from 2012 to 2015. Model simulations using the water-quality models were configured for the base case conditions and three different sets of recirculation scenarios: the maximum year-round recirculation without limits (scenario 1), limited year-round recirculation fixed by the current pipe flow configuration (scenario 2), and limited seasonal recirculation (May–September) also fixed by the current pipe flow configuration (scenario 3).

In the base case, estimates of annual average daily total nitrogen loads and daily total phosphorus loads exported to the Klamath River from the Klamath Straits Drain were as much as 3,060 and 457 pounds per day (lbs/day), respectively. Currently (2023), the Total Maximum Daily Loads allocations for the Klamath Straits Drain are 21 and 268 lbs/day for total phosphorus and total nitrogen, respectively, so these maximum estimates exceed the current Total Maximum Daily Loads by greater than an order of magnitude. With scenario 1, load reductions occurred year-round for all constituents evaluated (total nitrogen, total phosphorus, 5-day biochemical oxygen demand [BOD5], 5-day carbonaceous biochemical oxygen demand) for the Klamath Straits Drain discharging to the Klamath River. Scenario 2 also had large reductions in total nitrogen, total phosphorus, and BOD5 loads. Substantial reductions did occur for scenario 3 but were constrained to only the active recirculation period from May through September. Despite the restricted period, the average reductions in the annual average daily load for total phosphorus and total nitrogen were 32.1 percent and 26.5 percent, respectively.

The Ady Canal diverts high nutrient loads from the Klamath River, so the loading tradeoffs to the Klamath River between no recirculation and the recirculation scenarios were calculated. On an annual basis, the overall net balance between the Klamath Straits Drain and Ady Canal resulted in more total nitrogen and total phosphorus load reductions to the Klamath River for the three recirculation scenarios than the base case, for most years. In contrast, the net balance for BOD5 loads was higher to the Klamath River for the three recirculation scenarios than the base case, for most years.

With the recirculation scenarios, the optimal recirculation periods to benefit Ady Canal, Klamath River, and Klamath Straits Drain did not always coincide. Recirculation would be most effective at reducing loads toward the Klamath Straits Drain Total Maximum Daily Load allocations in the spring (March–May) of each year. However, recirculation during these months would also increase salinity in the Ady Canal. In summer, recirculation would reduce Klamath Straits Drain loads toward the Total Maximum Daily Load allocations, though recirculation could decrease Klamath River water quality mostly because of decreased withdrawals of Klamath River water by the Ady Canal. Scenario 3 avoided recirculation into Ady Canal in the early spring months when salinity concerns would be the highest, while still decreasing nutrient loads exported from the Klamath Straits Drain to the Klamath River in the summer months.

Suggested Citation

Smith, E.A., and Sullivan, A.B., 2023, Modeling the water-quality effects to the Klamath River from recirculation in drains and canals, Oregon and California, 2006–15: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2023–5059, 87 p.,

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Model Results
  • Model Application
  • Summary
  • References Cited
  • Appendixes 1–3
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Modeling the water-quality effects to the Klamath River from recirculation in drains and canals, Oregon and California, 2006–15
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2023-5059
DOI 10.3133/sir20235059
Year Published 2023
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Minnesota Water Science Center, Oregon Water Science Center
Description Report: vii, 87 p.; Data Release
Country United States
State California, Oregon
Other Geospatial Klamath River
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details