NAMPA, Idaho — Elected officials from southwestern Idaho were taught the basics of water delivery and water rights May 20 during an inaugural Water College hosted by the Treasure Valley Water Users Association.
The TVWUA was formed last year to represent irrigation districts and farmers on water-related issues specific to the Treasure Valley area and includes water delivery entities that represent 290,000 acres of irrigated ground.
The group’s mission also includes educating elected officials, the media and general public about important water issues that could impact the valley, said TVWUA Executive Director Roger Batt.
“Our association not only wants to work on helping to protect and preserve our water rights, but part of our mission is to help educate people about water and the issues that affect it,” he said. “We thought a really good way to do this would be to start a water college.”
Mayors, city council members and state legislators were the focus of the first Water College but Batt said TVWUA plans to target other audiences, including the media, in future colleges.
TVWUA plans to hold water colleges about four times a year.
“We’re hoping to build a really good educational base within the Treasure Valley community that understands all of these concepts and issues, which will make it easier to work with the public in the future,” Batt said.
During the first Water College, participants were taught the history and purpose of the Boise River reservoir system and the irrigation districts and canal companies that deliver that water to farmers and others.
“There is no farming and ranching in Southern Idaho without water,” water attorney Charlie Honsinger told the 20 participants. “Water is the absolute lifeblood of Idaho’s agricultural economy and, I would argue, the lifeblood of the entire (state) economy.”
Batt said the main point he and the four Boise-area water attorneys who conducted the class wanted to drive home was the importance of the reservoir storage system, which holds a combined 1 million acre-feet of water.
“We need that storage to get through the irrigation season,” he said. “If we don’t have that, we don’t have agriculture and we don’t have parks or golf courses or other things that get irrigated. It’s very critical.”
Water attorney Dan Steenson walked participants through the history and operation of the three reservoirs that make up the Boise River storage system.
Besides providing water for farmers, subdivisions, parks, golf courses and recreation, the reservoir system is also operated to prevent massive flooding in the valley, he said.
Honsinger explained the basics of water rights and why the assurance they provide is important to facilitate economic activity.
“Water rights add certainty and .. allow cities to plan for the future and provide economic opportunities,” he said.
Water attorney Andy Waldera talked about possible future Boise River water quality challenges and potential projects that could allow farmers to help solve them.
“Over-regulation can kill (such) innovative projects,” he said.