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Idaho water situation continues to improve

Sean Ellis
A series of snow and rain storms in March and April improved the southwestern Idaho water supply situation significantly and water supply managers now expect a normal irrigation season.

BOISE — The water supply outlook for most of southwestern Idaho continues to improve with a series of snow and rain storms that have pounded the region in March and April.

March precipitation was 163 percent of normal in the Boise basin, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

“This last bunch of storms we got kind of sealed the deal for us. It’s going to be a good irrigation season,” said Alan Newbill, chairman of the Pioneer Irrigation District’s board of directors.

The water supply situation in this part of the state improved dramatically from January to March 1. But it’s continued to improve since then and water supply managers now expect a normal water year for irrigators.

Reservoir storage on the Boise system was 107 percent of average and 64 percent of capacity on April 1, according to NRCS.

“I’m feeling a lot better than I was a month ago,” said Greg Curtis, water superintendent for the Nampa & Meridian Irrigation District, the Treasure Valley’s largest. “We were needing a couple more good storms and, lo and behold, we got them.”

Until the snow melts and the water is actually in the reservoirs, it’s hard to predict exactly how much water will be available this year, he added.

But given the current snowpack and reservoir situation, “It’s painting a much better picture than we had a month ago or even two weeks ago,” Curtis said. “It makes me a whole lot more optimistic that we can get a full season out of it.”

Many irrigation districts in the valley significantly reduced allotments and stopped delivering water about a month early last year to get by.

This year should be a different story, said Tim Page, project manager for the Boise Project Board of Control, which provides water to five irrigation districts in the valley.

“The last few storms we had really made a big difference,” he said. “I think we’re going to have a fairly close to normal irrigation season.”

Caldwell’s Tony Weitz was one of the farmers who had their annual water allotment reduced and their irrigation water shut off about a month early last year. That impacted some of his cropping decisions.

Weitz planted spring wheat in late February 2013 before he realized how dire the water situation was going to be. When he understood how bad it really was, “we just left the spring wheat we had planted without irrigation and used the water for the rest of our crops,” he said.

Weitz doesn’t expect to have to make those kinds of decisions this year.

“It’s a lot better now,” he said. “It should be pretty close to normal this year.”



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