Recent storms ease some water shortage fears
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Farmers, hydrologists and water managers are more optimistic about Idaho’s drought outlook after a series of storms rolled through the state this month.
The National Resources Conservation Service offered a dire outlook for Idaho in its first two reports of the year, warning that the state’s reservoirs were low and the snowpack wasn’t where it needed to be to ensure enough water for 2014. But a weather system called Pineapple Express began dumping wet snow and rain across the state earlier this month, and now water managers are revising their outlook.
Conservation service hydrologist Ron Abramovich said the Boise Basin has reached 70 percent of its average snowpack level, the minimum amount necessary to meet the year’s irrigation demand. Abramovich also expects good summer flows for boaters on the Salmon, Payette and Snake rivers this year.
As of last Friday, a measurement taken at Mores Creek showed the area was at more than 111 percent of its average snowpack.
“I don’t get excited until we exceed the monthly total — and we’re already there,” Abramovich said.
This is the time of the year that farmers plan their crops and line up their financing for the season, making the storms’ arrival critical, he said.
Brian Olmstead, general manager of the Twin Falls Canal District in southern Idaho, said irrigators in his region are smiling over the news.
“It’s a whole different picture than a few weeks ago,” Olmstead said. “It’s looking a lot better.”
About one-third of Idaho’s snowpack telemetry stations reported record low precipitation levels for October 2013 through January 2014, according to a report by the conservation service.
But as of Friday, most precipitation stations show that a full month’s worth of rain and snow fell in critical water-storage areas, said Mike Beus, water operations manager for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in Burley.
Still, more water is needed in parts of the state. Shortages are still expected in the Owyhee, Salmon Falls and Oakley basins, Abramovich said.