Updated water model cost $500,000 a year to develop
By JOHN O'CONNELL
BOISE -- A new and more precise model of the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer will get its first test during a contested water hearing in early May.
The updated model, which can make estimates specific to individual springs rather than general reaches of the Snake River, was intended for release last July.
Idaho Department of Water Resources Director Gary Spackman explained it was sidelined after his staff discovered technical glitches.
"On some of the testing, they found there was a data entry error. They were supposed to be consistent in terms of their units. Some had values of instantaneous flow, and others had values of volume," Spackman said. "It changed and skewed the results."
Those problems have been fixed, and a committee of experts assigned to critique the model once again endorsed it on Jan. 9, Spackman said.
The original model, finalized in 2004, was developed by the University of Idaho. The revised version has been in the works for six years. Throughout that time, Spackman has had two or three staff members working on the project, which has cost roughly $500,000 per year in labor and consulting fees.
"The application of that model will have some lasting impacts on how water is administered in the Eastern Snake Plain," Spackman said.
Spackman said the new model utilizes substantially more data points.
"We are now measuring more of those springs on a regular basis than we were before," he said. "Every time we measure those and calibrate them to the model, it improves its accuracy."
Spackman will preside over the hearing that will be the initial test of the model, which begins May 1 in Boise and is scheduled to last two weeks. The case involves Rangen Inc., which operates a Buhl fish hatchery and has filed delivery calls alleging its spring has been depleted by junior groundwater rights holders' diversions. The original delivery call case was filed in September 2003.