The stretch of rain and snow across much of Idaho in the last few weeks has transformed what looked to be a terrible water year into a pretty good one. It’s not just farmers who are breathing easier now. Many in Idaho’s tourism industry, like whitewater rafting companies, rely on snowpack and stream flows as well.
The latest map showing the water content of Idaho’s snowpack reveals the state continues to make up significant deficits seen early this winter.
Idaho has 21 basins where the Natural Resources Conservation Service measures snow accumulation and then assesses how the water content compares to that of a normal year. As of Thursday, all but five are at 80 percent of their average, or greater.
The Boise River basin is at 95 percent. The Payette River basin is 94. Most areas in central, northern and eastern Idaho are now above 100 percent of their normal snowpack levels.
It’s only July 22, but Lucky Peak Reservoir is already seeing the effects of a dry and hot season.
The Bureau of Reclamation has started dropping water levels in the reservoir, and is diverting the water for irrigation. Farmers in the Boise River watershed usually get water from the system around Labor Day. But with supplies at about 50 percent of normal, this year the diversion is happening five weeks earlier.
So what does this mean for recreation at Lucky Peak the rest of this summer?
If you were to go to the banks of the Snake River downstream of Milner Dam near Burley, you wouldn’t see much more than a trickle of water. That’s because the federal Bureau of Reclamation shut off the river flow on June 4.
For at least 25 miles, there isn’t enough water for a kayaker to paddle through. Idaho Power runs the hydroelectric plant at the dam, and says the zero flow will impact its operations through late July.
Later today, the Natural Resources Conservation Service will release a full report on snowpack and water levels in Idaho so far this year. The report will help paint a clearer picture of a complicated water scenario.
Water specialist Ron Abramovich says this year’s snowpack started off strong, but quickly dropped off. That makes for diverse stream levels.
Nearly halfway through winter, Idaho’s farmers and ranchers will soon make plans for their planting season. The latest snow survey by the Natural Resources Conservation Service could give them reasons to be optimistic. Hydrologist Ron Abramovich says that after one of the driest years on record, Idaho’s snowpack is off to a great start.
It's a snow day for many schools in the Treasure Valley including the Boise School District. Meridian, Nampa and Caldwell schools are just some of the districts that have closed for the day. Boise State University remains open.
College of Western Idaho classes and office buildings will start late at 10 a.m.
The National Weather Service has issued a winter weather advisory that will remain in effect through 9 a.m.
The mountains could get up to eight inches of snow today while lower elevations including the Treasure Valley could see up to three inches.
Recent rain has provided some much-needed relief from the dry conditions Idaho has experienced this year.
According to water supply specialist Ron Abramovich, the rain has gone a long way in ending the wildfire season.
“What it did was put a damper on the fire season finally," says Abramovich, who monitors water levels for the National Resources Conservation Service in Boise. "Too bad it didn’t come in September because it would have helped out a lot more then.”
The Pacific Northwest, including most of Idaho, should have a decent whitewater season this year. Ample snowpacks in the mountains mean good river flows through the summer. Kayakers and rafters in Idaho north of the Snake River should benefit.
Warmer temperatures this week have kept river levels high in Idaho as mountain snow melts. It’s been a challenging year for those who manage the state’s river systems. That’s because the spring runoff happened a month earlier than last year. It's brought flooding along the Boise River and raises questions about water availability next year. Just ask Ron Abramovich. He's a hydrologist and water supply specialist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Boise.
Hydrologists from the Natural Resources Conservation Service call the latest snow survey results "March Madness in Idaho." Storm after storm hit the state in March, marking one of the greatest one-month changes in snowpack on record.