Water Worries Appear Again

Published online: Mar 14, 2002
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Idaho irrigators are starting to worry about water supplies this year as snowpacks are below average once again and storms have been few.

As of the March 1 snow surveys, the Palisades drainage area in western Wyoming and eastern Idaho averaged 70 percent of normal.

The Henry’s Fork drainage area was higher at 90 percent. Both feed the Snake River, which irrigates hundreds of thousands of acres through eastern, southern and western Idaho.

Inflow in lower stretches of the river in northern Idaho provides water for irrigation pumps for growers in southeastern Washington.

Some canal companies have already given notice that water could be short and growers should plant for shortages. At the same time, two pumping districts have been formed and told they must cut back on underground pumping between 10-15 percent this year.

Those irrigators, many of whom are potato growers, have said they would rent water to fill any river inflow needs believed taken by their pumping. However, as things sit at mid-March, there won’t be much water available to rent.

The question is, will this affect potato production? The answer is always a resounding “no” because as the only “cash” crop in much of Idaho, potatoes are planted over other crops for the hope of higher returns.