Pioneer to stop water flows on Oct. 1

Sean Ellis

Capital Press

Pioneer Irrigation District, which supplies water to 34,000 acres in southwest Idaho, most of it farmland, will stop delivering water on Oct. 1. That's about a month longer than previously anticipated and close to the normal cutoff date.

CALDWELL, Idaho — Pioneer Irrigation District will end water deliveries Oct. 1, about a month longer than previously anticipated.

Despite a difficult 2013 irrigation season marked by meager snowpack and sparse precipitation during the spring and summer, the district was able to stretch its water supply to almost the normal cutoff date.

Pioneer usually delivers water to its 7,000 patrons until the first part of October and in 2012 ended water deliveries on Oct. 5.

“It’s just about a week off normal and we started a few days earlier than normal, so it’s been a real respectable season,” said Pioneer Water Superintendent Mark Zirschky.

Several irrigation districts in southwestern Idaho stopped delivering water Sept. 5, about a month earlier than normal.

“We just tightened things up, natural flows held out and we managed it pretty well,” Zirschky said. “The users really understood what we were up against and worked well with us.”

At one point during the spring, the water situation was so bad that some irrigation districts were concerned they might have to stop deliveries in mid-August.

Pioneer was able to stretch its season by reducing flows to its customers by about 20 percent. During some stretches, flows were reduced by as much as 30 percent.

“That worked out well for our customers,” said Pioneer board president Alan Newbill. “Any time you make it to the first of October, it’s pretty normal, so we’re right at normal.”

He said Pioneer was able to keep water flowing by constantly monitoring and tweaking diversion flows.

“We knew that 2013 was going to be a tough year with the low snowpack,” Newbill said. “I stand by the early decision by the board to try to reduce deliveries and lengthen the irrigation season.”

The district delivers water to about 34,000 acres in Canyon County and the extreme western part of Ada County, most of it farmland.

Heading into the 2013 season, Newbill said, Pioneer officials were very concerned about the short water supply and asked farmers early on to conserve as much water as possible.

“We could see a huge problem looming. That’s the reason we got on it early and told all our farmers, ‘conserve, conserve, conserve,’” he said.

He credited farmers, as well as the district’s plan to reduce water flows, for stretching a short water supply as far as possible.

“The farmers all got together and said, ‘we need to make this last,’ and it worked out well,” he said.


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