Water

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.”

WaterArchives / Flickr Creative Commons

The Army Corps of Engineers Wednesday told the Idaho Department of Water Resources it could not recommend raising the height of Arrowrock Dam on the Boise River. The announcement was a disappointment to the state and the Corps.

The water resources board thought raising the height of the hundred-year-old dam would be the best way to reduce flood risk and increase water storage in the Treasure Valley. So it commissioned the Army Corps to study it. After a seven-year study costing nearly $3 million, the Corps agreed.

Idaho Department of Agriculture

Idaho officials intercepted a boat Tuesday on U.S. Highway 93 that was carrying a potentially harmful invasive species.

The boat was moored in Lake Mead, Nevada, which is infested with quagga and zebra mussels. When it entered Idaho, the owners were required to stop at one of the state’s 16 inspection stations to ensure none of the invasive species were brought into the state.

But Lloyd Knight, with Idaho’s Department of Agriculture, said that’s not what happened.

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.

Nicholas D. / Flickr

In 50 years, the Treasure Valley will need three times the water it currently uses. That’s according to a new study commissioned by the Idaho Water Resource Board.

The board is looking at how to meet current and future water needs in the valley.

Brian Patton is chief of the board’s Planning Bureau. He says the population is likely to grow from 600,000 people to 1.57 million, and all those people will need more water.

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.” 

Stephen Mitchell / Flickr Creative Commons

The contamination of drinking water in Flint, Michigan has brought the issue of lead poisoning to many people’s attention. The brown-colored water from the Flint River was not treated for lead, and children in the town are especially vulnerable to getting sick. The crisis in Michigan has caused drinking water regulators to take another look at their own systems – including in Idaho.
 

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.

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