Snowpack

Phil Morrisey / National Resources Conservation Service

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) relies on data from mountain measuring tools known as SNOTEL sites to forecast how much water Idaho will have each year. This information helps farmers determine which crops to grow (a drier year means they may choose less water-intensive crops) and gives water managers data to plan for flood control. Recreationists use the data to figure out the wildest rivers to ride in the summer.

Bogus Basin Recreation Area

Idaho water managers say they will step up funding for a cloud seeding program that's already been credited with increasing the state's mountain snowpack.

The Capital Press reports that the Idaho Power Co. program releases silver iodine into the atmosphere, which helps ice form in the clouds and increases precipitation.

The cloud seeding began in 2003. Idaho Power estimates that the extra snowpack creates an average of 800,000 acre-feet of water, roughly the volume of the American Falls Reservoir. It generates enough hydro-power to supply 17,000 homes.

National Interagency Fire Center

The National Interagency Fire Center in Boise has released its latest fire predictions for 2016.

Wildfire officials say southern Idaho could see above normal fire activity in July and August, while El Nino rains and warmer temperatures in the late spring and early summer could lead to lots of fuels. Lush grasses in May and June should dry by July, increasing the potential for rangeland wildfires. 

Twitter / U.S. Geological Survey Idaho

Despite last year's prediction that El Nino would bring warmer and drier weather to Idaho, the mountain snowpack is filling up reservoirs and swelling rivers around the state. The U.S. Geological Survey in Idaho (USGS) is keeping track of the latter, measuring rivers in different regions of the Gem State. 

In the Treasure Valley, water managers released more water from Lucky Peak Dam last week. As a result, the Boise River jumped to 5,770 cubic feet per second (cfs) Tuesday morning.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

A good year of snow and cold weather in the mountains has given water managers throughout the state some much-needed good news. Right now, the threat of drought seems distant. 

 

USDA NRCS

Water supply specialist Ron Abramovich has learned never to assume how Idaho’s water forecast will turn out. He works for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and says that variability played out this year with El Nino, especially in the northern part of the state. 

“But lucky for us, the jetstream was split," says Ambramovich. "So we still had moisture coming through the Pacific Northwest into Idaho, and then the desert Southwest also got it, so it really helped Idaho’s snowpack tremendously this winter.” 

Bogus Basin's Plan To Keep The Mountain White

Dec 18, 2015
Jessica Murri

It’s a cold morning at Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area without a single cloud in the sky, but that doesn’t keep snow from piling up on the slopes. That’s thanks to a brand new SMI Super Polecat snow gun, blowing thousands of gallons of water into the freezing air.

“Since November First, we have used 800,000 gallons of water through the snowguns . . . so that’s enough to cover one acre of ground with a foot of snow,” says Director of Mountain Operations at Bogus Basin, Nate Shake.

Natural Resources Conservation Service

New data from the federal government show the snow season is off to a strong start in most of Idaho.

The latest map from the Natural Resources Conservation Service shows 14 of the state’s 21 snowpack regions are above average for mid-December. Many are well above average.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Water experts from around Idaho gathered in Boise earlier this month to brief one another on 2016 forecasts. A slide during a presentation by Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) water supply specialist Ron Abramovich solidified a recurring theme: "think snow."

According to this week's forecast, southern Idaho will be not just thinking snow — but experiencing it.

So how do things look so far when it comes to that precious precipitation?

USGS Idaho

It is common knowledge that the drought this year was pretty bad. But just how intense was it, and what can we learn about it for future water supply shortages? These are some of the questions scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey across the West are asking. They are studying streams and rivers in six states, including Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

Screen grab usbr.gov / Bureau of Reclamation

The three big reservoirs on the Boise River started summer with a good bit of water left over from the previous year. Altogether, they are a little under half full right now. That’s below normal, according to Brian Sauer with the Bureau of Reclamation in Boise.

“And we’re still in irrigation season so it will drop some more,” Sauer says.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee Friday significantly expanded a drought declaration due to dwindling snowpack.