South Idaho Farmers Told To Brace For Water Shutdown

Jan 30, 2014

A farmer walks his droughted field in eastern Idaho.
Credit Molly Messick / Boise State Public Radio

Growers of sugar beets and potatoes in eight counties along southern Idaho's Snake River could be in jeopardy after a fish hatchery's complaint it isn't getting its fair share of water.

Idaho Department of Water Resources' director Gary Spackman signed an order Wednesday telling 2,300 water-right holders they'll have to shut down irrigation if they can't reach a compromise with Rangen Inc, a Hagerman-based fish farm.

This shut-off call for famers who pump water from deep beneath the earth comes amid a disastrous year of snowfall, at least so far, that portends a parched summer — and scant water to sustain this rich agricultural region's demands.

Rangen's water right has priority, giving it first dibs on water over the pumpers.

Groundwater lobbyist Lynn Tominaga says pumpers are now scrambling for alternatives.