Idaho Water Pow Wow Today

Published online: Aug 28, 2001
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Irrigators concerned about water rights and irrigation possibilities for next year are going to get together Aug. 28 (today) at the Idaho Department of Water Resources office in Boise to see if there is any possibility of developing a water-share plan.

According to Karl Dreher, director, a pumping curtailment must be made in the American Falls/Blackfoot and Hagerman areas to supply senior water rights farther down the Snake River.

Dreher said senior rights holders in the Twin Falls and North Side canal companies-that go back to the early 1900s-supercede deep-well pumping rights for irrigators of 50,500 acres in the American Falls area and 34,500 acres in the Twin Falls area. The latter rights were obtained from the 1940s through the 1960s.

Notices of water rights pumping curtailment will go out Sept. 1 for the industrial, municipal, and agriculture pumpers in the affected areas. Some industrial users include potato processing plants and dozens of large dairies.

According to Dick Larsen, IDWR spokesman, it is already a "done deal" for 2002 because the Department looks at water inflows in one-year increments. Because of the lingering drought in Idaho, even if the areas were drenched with rain and snow this winter it would take a year to recharge the aquifer and inflows.

So, the conference today has been set up to see if the parties involved can work out any type of shared water-use plan so they can both remain viable in their areas of water need.

Larsen says the question now is what will happen for the 2003 irrigation season. If the Snake River Basin gets a normal snow pack this winter, it could help to bring things back to normal so no curtailments are ordered in 2002.

Larsen says the Department will look at the areas that must give up pumping in five kilometer (three-mile grids). Those closest to the river will have pumping curtailed first, before those in grids farther away from the river are shut off-until computer modeling shows that enough inflow has been obtained to supply the senior rights.

Larsen noted that the pumping curtailment plan will also use priority water rights so if a pumper close to the river had an earlier water right, that right would not be cut off before junior rights farther from the river are curtailed. The curtailment plan will begin April 1.