Water

Scott Graf / Boise State Public Radio

Federal agencies will release more water to flow on the Boise River Friday.

The Bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corps of Engineers will increase flow from 240 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 750 cfs through the city of Boise.

National Weather Service Boise

So far, February is turning out to be an unusually warm month in southern Idaho. According to the National Weather Service (NWS), temperatures for the first two weeks of the month have been 10 degrees above normal and have included two record-breaking high temperatures.

NWS Boise hydrologist Troy Lindquist says a wet and cooler spring would help the situation, and an early mountain snowmelt makes this year's water picture less sustainable.

Dennis Amith / Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho City residents have been told they need to boil their water before drinking it. The order went into effect Sunday after high levels of sediment was found coming out of the town's water treatment plant. 

Idaho City's drinking water comes from Elk Creek, which has been running with more soil and debris than normal from the recent rains. Mayor Jim Obland says the boil advisory is an inconvenience but a necessary precaution.

waterarchives.org / Flickr Creative Commons

It's still not clear what caused last week's malfunction at the Barber Dam in Boise. As we reported last week, the Boise River backed up behind the dam after an apparent power outage shut down the plant late Tuesday night. The river dropped well-below normal flows for almost eight hours before the dam's operators got it back up and running.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

Idaho Fish and Game biologists are looking closely at the shallow areas of the Boise River right below Barber Dam. They're trying to determine how many trout hatchlings may have died when the river's flow dropped dramatically earlier this week.

Suzba / Flickr Creative Commons

After a power plant's alert system failed causing Wednesday's dramatic drop in the Boise River flow, Idaho Fish and Game biologists are concerned about potential impacts to wildlife. The river went from flowing at 290 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 81 cfs in a matter of hours.

Barber Dam's power was restored early Wednesday morning, constricting the flow of water for nearly eight hours.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

This story was updated at 4:55 p.m.

You might have noticed the Boise River was lower than normal Wednesday morning. At midnight, the gauge at Boise's Glenwood Bridge showed the river was flowing at 290 cubic feet per second (cfs). At 10:45 a.m., the river had dropped to just 81 cfs. 

Ryan Hedrick is a hydrologist at the Bureau of Reclamation, the agency that controls the flow of water to the river at Lucky Peak. He says the significant drop this morning was due to a problem at a Boise hydroelectric plant in the middle of the night.

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.

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