Idaho Farmers Will Squeak By If Average Snow Falls This Winter

Oct 30, 2013

Multi use farm near the Snake River in eastern Idaho
Credit Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Much of Idaho has been in a severe drought and  scientists have now calculated how much rain and snow some Idaho water users will need in order to get by next summer.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has looked at surface water needs for the Snake River Basin.

Water supply specialist Ron Abramovich says if the state’s agricultural heartland from Idaho Falls to Twin Falls gets average precipitation, "They should be able to just squeak by with an adequate irrigation supply next year.”

Abramovich says the Snake River Basin needs average fall and spring rains and average winter snow. Though if there’s a dry spring, higher-than-average snow could make up for it. He says if it’s a below-average year overall, farmers will be faced with tough decisions to conserve water, such as changing what they plant. Abramovich says forecasts based on similar years do point to normal precipitation until spring. But he says increasing climate variability is throwing off their understanding of normal.

The NRCS has also analyzed eastern Idaho’s Big Lost Basin and found a similar situation to the Snake. But it hasn’t finished looking at other major water supply areas such as the Boise Basin. Abramovich says short staffing and equipment lost to wildfire slowed work. Then the government shutdown put work at this branch of the Department of Agriculture more than two weeks further behind.

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