Water

deq.idaho.gov

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) this week released several reports on important aquifers around the country. Idaho’s Snake River Plain Basin features in two of those reports. About a fifth of Idahoans rely on that aquifer as their only source of drinking water.

South-central Idaho groundwater pumpers might have to start shutting off water pumps this week.

Idaho Department of Water Resources Director Gary Spackman on Saturday denied a request by groundwater pumpers to delay a water curtailment order.

The Times-News reports that the order includes 14 cities and about 157,000 acres of land.

Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Hydrologists from the Natural Resources Conservation Service  measured snow pack Tuesday in the mountains above the Treasure Valley. At the Mores Creek sight near Idaho City, snow pack was 53 inches. But more importantly, says water supply specialist Ron Abramovich, that snow contains 14 inches of water.

“And normally at this time of year we’d have 12 inches of water in the snow pack” he says. “So we’re a little above average, which is good.”

An 11-year state and federal study of selenium pollution in a southeastern Idaho watershed where some 700 sheep, cattle and horses have died over the last several decades after grazing in contaminated areas has found the toxin is likely moving through groundwater.

The 36-page study on the Upper Blackfoot River Watershed released earlier this month by the U.S. Geological Survey also found that selenium levels spiked in the river during spring thaw.

Researchers say the inactive Maybe Canyon Mine is producing the most contamination.

Robert Couse-Baker / Flickr Creative Commons

Idahoans are using more water per capita than residents of any other state according to a recent report from the U.S. Geological Survey. The USGS does a detailed look at water use every fifth year.

Molly Maupin led the team that calculated the nation’s water use for 2010. It took them four years to compile all the data. They looked at all the different ways people were using water, from morning showers to cooling nuclear power plants.

The Environmental Protection Agency is testing out a new technique for keeping heavily-used river banks from eroding into the water.

rickotto62 / Flickr Creative Commons

A new report from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) finds that ground water levels have dropped in parts of the Wood River Valley.

USGS hydrologist Jim Bartolino’s team looked at changes in ground water and surface water between 2006 and 2012.

Bartolino says there are two distinct parts to the aquifer under the valley.

Chinook Salmon
Roger Tabor / USFWS Pacific

Blaine County commissioners in central Idaho have approved permits what will allow workers to improve fish passage on a key stream for chinook salmon, steelhead and bull trout.

The Idaho Mountain Express reports that commissioners last week approved work expected to start this week on Pole Creek.

The creek is designated critical habitat for the fish.

The stream-alteration and flood plain conditional-use permit means a culvert on private property that impedes fish passage will be replaced with a bridge.

Scott Graf / Boise State Public Radio

The largest-ever review of water rights claims wrapped up in Idaho this week. A project that started in 1987 ended Monday when a judge signed the final decree of the Snake River Basin Adjudication

Conflicts between Idaho Power, its customers and farmers in southern Idaho in the late 1970s prompted the state to tackle the massive review. The goal was simple: to clearly define water rights in the basin to help resolve future disputes during drought. 

Since the project, Idaho has defined more than 158,000 water rights.

The northern arm of the Rocky Mountains is sometimes called "the crown of the continent," and its jewels are glaciers and snowfields that irrigate large parts of North America during spring thaw.

But the region is getting warmer, even faster than the rest of the world. Scientists now say warming is scrambling the complex relationship between water and nature and could threaten some species with extinction as well as bring hardship to ranchers and farmers already suffering from prolonged drought.

The state of Idaho is preparing to establish water rights in the northern part of the state. It's a relatively water-abundant area, not prone to the sort of conflicts that have erupted elsewhere like Oregon's Klamath Basin.

J Stephen Conn / Flickr Creative Commons

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released its final plan and environmental impact statement for managing sediment accumulation in the lower Snake and Clearwater rivers in northern Idaho.

The plan calls for dredging the navigation channel of the lower Snake River at the confluence of the Clearwater River as early as between Dec. 15 and Feb. 28 this winter.

The Lewiston Tribune reports that the agency has been working on the plan since 2005. The final plan is more than 3,900 pages and cost $16 million to prepare.

Chinook Salmon, fish
Pacific Northwest National Lab / Flickr Creative Commons

Hundreds of adult chinook salmon needed to create future generations have been killed after rainstorms sent sediment into a fish trap on the South Fork of the Salmon River in central Idaho.

Officials tell the Idaho Statesman that the loss means significantly fewer adult chinook salmon will return to the South Fork Salmon in 2018.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game says the rain event on Aug. 6 caused sediment to flow into holding ponds and suffocate the fish.

Cariboo Regional District Emergency Operations Centre

A dam break at a central British Columbia mine could threaten salmon fisheries in the Pacific Northwest.

Mount Polley is an open-pit copper and gold mine roughly 400 miles north of Seattle. A dam holding back water and silt leftover from the mining process broke Monday. It released enough material to fill more than 2,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Government regulators have not yet determined its content. But documents show it could contain sulfur, arsenic and mercury.

Courtesy Idaho Power

This, folks, is a 470-pound sturgeon that was recently reeled in, tagged, and released by Idaho Power. The 10-foot-long female was caught in Hells Canyon on the Snake River. Did we mention this fish is 75 years old? That means she was born in 1939, when Franklin D. Roosevelt was President.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved emergency haying and grazing on land normally used for the Conservation Reserve Program in parts of eastern Idaho.

Officials in Bingham, Bonneville, Fremont, Madison and Power counties requested the emergency access because of drought and crop damage. The USDA's Farm Service Agency in Idaho announced Monday that the requests were approved.

The emergency haying is allowed through the end of August, and participants must leave at least half of each field unhayed for wildlife. The hay can't be sold.

Water is a common and often contentious issue in the West. But now, farmers across the country are also riled up because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants to revise the 1972 Clean Water Act.

Oregon Department of Forestry / Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho has long restricted cutting down trees along stream banks as a way to keep water cool for trout and a salmon. On July 1, an updated version of the so-called shade rule goes into effect.   

Shawn / Flickr Creative Commons

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia will visit Boise in August to give the keynote speech at a conference marking the end of a nearly 30-year water adjudication process.

The University of Idaho announced the upcoming event is sponsored by the Idaho Supreme Court, the Kempthorne Institute, and U of I’s College of Law.

Scalia is speaking at a conference celebrating the end of the Snake River Basin Adjudication process which negotiated water rights in Idaho. That adjudication started in 1987.

Idaho is starting the process of taking over wastewater permitting from the federal Environmental Protection Agency, under a law that quietly cleared the Idaho Legislature earlier this year.

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