Water

Tom Michael / Boise State Public Radio

As dam officials bump up the water flow on the Boise River yet again this week, it’s a good time to take a look at the numbers that matter during this flooding event.

This week, the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plan to raise the water level at the Glenwood Bridge to 8,500 cubic feet per second. As of Wednesday, crews were pushing 9,240 cfs of water out of Lucky Peak Dam. Gina Baltrusch with the Walla Walla District of the Corps says about 1,000 cfs is being diverted into irrigation canals and the rest is flowing down the Boise.

John Miller

The Owyhee Project provides water from the Owyhee Reservoir to almost 1,800 farms in southwestern Idaho and eastern Oregon. But despite ample snow and rain this winter, the irrigation district will charge $4 more per acre for water this season.

That’s because the irrigation system is in need of repairs, according to the Capital Press newspaper. The Owyhee project was built in 1932 and is close to reaching its expected life span.

Jim Jones

Before he was a member of the Idaho Supreme Court, Jim Jones was part of the biggest water fight in the Gem State’s modern history. Jones has a new book out that chronicles that time.

Jones was elected to the first of two terms as Idaho Attorney general in 1982. Not long after he started the job, the Idaho Supreme Court issued a decision that reversed 30 years of policy and essentially gave Idaho Power priority of control over much of the water in the Snake River.

NMID

Water will start flowing through Boise’s irrigation canals starting next Monday. The Treasure Valley’s largest irrigation district says they expect to have plenty of water this season.

For 112 years, the Nampa and Meridian Irrigation District has been providing irrigation water to the Treasure Valley. Next week’s launch of the irrigation season will be the 113th consecutive year for the District.

Otto Kitsinger / Associated Press

Inspection officials found a live quagga mussel on a boat on the Idaho/Nevada border. It’s the third infested boat found this year trying to enter the state.

The boat was found at the U.S. Highway 93 inspection station. It spent the last three months at Lake Havasu, which is infested with quagga and zebra mussels.

Chris Carlson / AP

 The northern Idaho city of Moscow is saving hundreds of thousands of gallons of water since implementing a conservation plan last year that provides rebates to customers who swap out their old toilets for more water-efficient ones.

Ernie Seckinger / Flickr Creative Commons

Health officials say septic systems are the likely source of wastewater contamination in several private wells near the southwest Idaho city of Nampa.

KIVI-TV reported Tuesday that Southwest District Health and the Department of Environmental Quality completed a review of nine private wells.

Southwest District Health spokeswoman Laurie Boston says none of the wells tested positive for E. coli bacteria but evidence indicates wastewater is starting to affect all the wells in the area.

Ben Rogers / Flickr

Very cold weather is moving into Idaho and that could mean frozen pipes. Suez, the company that handles water for the Treasure Valley, has some tips for homeowners.

If your pipes freeze, the first person to call is your water company. That’s according to Miguel Castro, a Field Service Technician at Suez. He says they can tell you if the problem is in your pipes, or the meter box that belongs to Suez.

Castro says that call could save you some money.

Scott Graf / Boise State Public Radio

A group of scientists and trainers will work with volunteers Saturday to monitor the quality of water in the Boise River. 

Joe Rubin / Flickr Creative Commons

Two more wells providing drinking water in the southwest Idaho city of Nampa have tested positive for E. coli bacteria, which can cause intestinal illnesses.

Southwest District Health tells the Idaho Press-Tribune in a story on Thursday that six previous wells found to be contaminated with E. coli are still testing positive.

Testing of the private wells is voluntary, and the health district isn't releasing the exact locations. Officials say there have been no reports of illnesses connected to the contamination.

Scott Graf / Boise State Public Radio

Kevin Vierra stands in his living room, admiring the Eagle home he bought in July. It’s full of alder wood floors and cabinets. The counters are granite. Outside, he looks over a small creek.

Vierra and his wife, Vicki, moved here from Manteca, California just three months after visiting a friend who’d already relocated to the area.  Vierra – fresh off a career as a police officer – had grown tired of his native state’s crime and traffic. Now, he uses trips to the airport, both there and here, as an example of how his quality of life has improved.

Monica Gokey

Idaho is pretty well off, water-wise, compared to other arid Western states. But as the Treasure Valley grows, different water users are poised to square off over a finite water supply.

Here's the pickle: The population of the Treasure Valley is expected to more than double in the coming decades. And that has urban planners thinking ahead. But while it seems like the Treasure Valley is flush with potential water sources, a lot of that water is already spoken for by the agricultural sector.

 

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

There’s a legal fight going on over control of water in the Treasure Valley. The rhetoric in the fight has been intense. One side even has an ad campaign. 

Imagine a movie-theater preview voice comes up over cheery music reminiscent of a babbling brook. 

“Irrigation water, it makes the Treasure Valley a lush green miracle instead of a desert landscape. Imagine a typical 105 degree summer day. Now imagine your irrigation water is completely shut off to your lawn, garden, farm or favorite park.” The music stops.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

When I turn on a sink I often wonder where the water is coming from. It turns out when I’m getting a drink in our newsroom kitchenette in east Boise I can see the answer through the window. It’s the Boise River. If I could go up the faucet and through the pipes I’d come out less than a mile upstream at the Marden water treatment plant off of Warm Springs Blvd.

Mark Snider with Suez, the multi-national company that supplies drinking water to most of Boise and some of Eagle says this was their first surface water treatment plant in Boise.

Idaho Department of Water Resources

It’s no secret that Eastern Idaho has a water problem. There is too much demand and too little water in the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer to go around. But how did we get to this point? That’s what this chart is all about.

About 100 years ago, there was roughly 4,000 cubic feet per second of water coming out of the aquifer at Thousand Springs. It’s important to note that’s not how much water was in the aquifer, just how much was flowing out.

Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

It’s 60 miles across, mostly hidden from view and vital to the economy of Idaho. Much of the time, the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer gets little attention, even from people who rely on it every day. Without it, farmland would disappear and cities from Twin Falls to Rexburg would dry up. As we begin our series on water in Idaho, we take a closer look at the state’s largest “body” of water, hidden underneath the Snake River Plain.

Robert Couse-Baker / Flickr Creative Commons

Ketchum’s water ordinance was put into effect in 1992. To city Public Water Works director Robyn Mattison, the decades-old law shows just how dedicated the city is to water conservation. 

The ordinance bars daytime watering, the idea being that overnight watering when temperatures are cooler is more efficient. Mattison says homeowners are used to the restriction and in the three years she’s been in the position – she hasn’t heard many complaints.

Talo Pinto / Flickr Creative Commons

Like much of Idaho, people in the Wood River Valley rely on groundwater. Now, water managers have a new way of understanding the way surface water and groundwater are connected in the region, and potential problems with the supply.  

Screengrab USDA.gov

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, four Idaho counties are in a state of disaster because of drought. The counties are Canyon, Owyhee, Payette and Washington. Farmers and ranchers there and in any adjacent counties can get federal money to help them through the year if they can prove the drought is hurting their production.

Jimmy Emerson / Flickr Creative Commons

Water banking is something you’ve probably heard of in stories about California’s drought. The idea is that if you’re a farmer with a water right and have more water than you need for that year, you can sell it to another farmer in the system who needs more.

“Idaho’s actually somewhat on the forefront of water banking," says Neeley Miller of the Idaho Department of Water Resources, "and I think what the board would like to do is enhance those mechanisms.”

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