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Lake Lowell water rapidly declining

Sean Ellis

Capital Press

Farmers in southwestern Idaho have been asked to voluntarily conserve water in an effort to avoid a possible shortage at Lake Lowell near Nampa.

LAKE LOWELL, Idaho — Boise Project Board of Control officials have asked farmers and other patrons to voluntarily conserve water to avoid a possible shortage at Lake Lowell.

The man-made reservoir near Nampa was depleting so quickly that BPBC officials were concerned there might not be enough water to finish the season, which typically lasts into October.

The BPBC provides irrigation water to 167,000 acres and five irrigation districts in southwestern Idaho and eastern Oregon. There are about 47,000 acre of irrigated land below Lake Lowell.

BPBC officials have asked all users on the system to voluntarily conserve water, but it is farmers below the lake who will suffer if the water runs out.

Board members had considered ordering a 25 percent water reduction but decided to ask farmers to voluntarily conserve, said BPBC Chairman Richard Durant, a Meridian area farmer.

Project officials discussed the situation July 18 with dozens of farmers who attended meetings at Lake Lowell and in Wilder.

BPBC Project Manager Tim Page said the lake’s water level was declining so rapidly that project officials thought it was best to speak with farmers about the issue face-to-face and ask them to conserve voluntarily.

A short notification asking for a system-wide voluntary conservation effort was posted on the BPBC website July 23.

Water usage on the system has declined somewhat since the meetings, Page said.

“Usage seems to have backed off a little bit…. If it continues like that, I think we’ll be OK,” he said.

Durant also said he’s hopeful the voluntary conservation approach will work.

“If the voluntarily conservation continues the way it has this last week, we’re optimistic we will have enough water to make it work,” he said.

The possible water shortage at Lake Lowell comes despite the fact that the overall Boise River reservoir system is in good shape.

Because of last year’s drought, the system entered the winter with very little carryover water. There wasn’t enough water to move from Anderson Ranch dam to Lake Lowell early in the winter, when the situation was dire, Page said.

Users on the system ended up with a 2.25 acre-foot allotment this year, but the water situation was so bad in January that project officials were actually discussing the possibility of a .75 acre-foot allotment.

The basin’s snowpack situation changed dramatically in late February and March but the project was only able to move about 103,000 acre-feet to the lake by the first part of June, a little less than normal.

Now, enough water can’t be moved to the lake fast enough to keep up with the amount leaving, Page said.

“Just the fact that we weren’t able to push enough water to the lake was the problem,” he said. “They’re taking water out faster than we can get it into the lake.”

The situation will start to reverse about the first of September, when a lot of crops are finished and water demand slows down considerably, Page said.

If the voluntary approach gets the lake through until then, irrigators should have a normal water year, he added.



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