Southwest Idaho farmers should have adequate water supply

Published online: Jul 06, 2014
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BOISE—Idaho farmers in the Treasure Valley area can expect a normal water supply this year.

Many irrigation districts in southwestern Idaho reduced their customers’ water allotments significantly last year and stopped delivering water a month earlier than normal as well.

But reservoirs on the Boise River system are full this year and water supplies should last into October, as they do in a normal year.

The water situation in the valley looked dire in January but things changed dramatically late, said Tim Page, project manager of the Boise Project Board of Control, which provides water for five irrigation districts in the valley.

“This ended up being a fairly good year for us,” he said.

To get by last year, BPBC reduced the annual allotment for its customers from the normal 3-plus acre-feet to 1.4 acre-feet and also shut off water Sept. 5, more than a month earlier than normal.

BPBC, which provides water to about 165,000 acres in the valley, the bulk of it agriculture, set this year’s allotment at 2.25 acre-feet and doesn’t have plans to stop delivery early.

The project gets by on natural river flows until the Boise River falls to a certain level. It then switches to water it has stored in reservoirs and provides users a certain allotment of water they can use for the season.

That switch to the reservoir allotment occurred June 18 this year and Meridian farmer Richard Durant said he was able to use about 1 acre-foot from river flows until the allotment kicked in.

That will give him a total of about 3.25 acre-feet of water this year, an adequate supply for his crops.

“It was pretty sad last year,” he said. “Now, the reservoirs are full and it looks really good.”

Pioneer Irrigation District reduced flows to its 5,800 customers by 25 percent last year to get by but this year is a different story. Its reservoir storage account is filled and customers can plan on a normal supply of water, said manager Mark Zirschky.

“It’s quite a bit better than last year,” he said. “We’re hopeful we’ll be able to make a full season pretty easily.”

Pioneer has been getting by on natural river flows and planned to switch to reservoir storage this week, which is about normal for the district.

In January, Zirschky said, he did not think this type of scenario was possible.

“It was a jaw-dropping spring,” he said. “I didn’t anticipate we would end up as good as did.”

Nampa & Meridian Irrigation District, the valley’s largest, shut down its 500 miles of canals on Sept. 5 last year, a month earlier than normal. This year will be a different story, said NMID Water Superintendent Greg Curtis.

“We should make a full season out of it this year,” he said. “It’s been a totally different year all around.”