Surface, spring and groundwater users generally agree that Idaho's Comprehensive Aquifer Management Plan holds the most promise for addressing declines in the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer.
Based on litigation stemming from water conflicts, the Idaho Water Resource Board hired Colorado-based CDR Associates to draft the CAMP framework in 2006.
An advisory committee with members representing irrigation companies, groundwater users, spring users, hydropower owners, land developers, city officials and others was formed in 2007 and met 18 times during the course of two years.
They established a long-term plan with a phased-in approach to achieve a net annual improvement in the ESPA water budget of 600,000 acre-feet by 2030 through aquifer recharge, constructing facilities to allow groundwater pumpers to use surface water during years with abundant flow and other strategies, according to Jonathan Bartsch, with CDR Associates.
Randy MacMillan, vice president of research with Clear Springs Foods, said CAMP can help avoid litigation, which is "messy and expensive."
"The whole idea of CAMP is to have a variety of projects that could be done. We've hardly scratched the surface in doing those," MacMillan said. "We're hopeful we can start putting our human and financial resources into sustaining the aquifer and that we will all come out winners."
Lynn Tominaga, executive director of Idaho Ground Water Appropriators, said disagreements about payment responsibilities for CAMP projects have stymied the process. Nonetheless, he's been part of several collaborative CAMP projects involving parties that sometimes find themselves on the opposite sides of legal actions.
For example, he has two groundwater districts teaming with A&B Irrigation District on an aquifer recharge project. Tominaga doubts the project would have come about without CAMP.
University of Idaho hydrology professor Gary Johnson considers water calls to be a poor means of addressing shortages. He much prefers the CAMP approach.
"I don't know that (CAMP) followed the path they initially thought it would. The concept behind it is still a good concept," Johnson said. "I wouldn't put my backing behind curtailment if other options are out there."
-- John O'Connell