Water

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.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Water experts from around Idaho gathered in Boise earlier this month to brief one another on 2016 forecasts. A slide during a presentation by Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) water supply specialist Ron Abramovich solidified a recurring theme: "think snow."

According to this week's forecast, southern Idaho will be not just thinking snow — but experiencing it.

So how do things look so far when it comes to that precious precipitation?

jah / Flickr

The District that keeps irrigation water flowing to Ada and Canyon County has sent out a final warning to 83 people to pay up or face losing their homes.

The Nampa and Meridian Irrigation District (NMID) provides irrigation water to 69,000 acres of farmland, homes and commercial property. Every year, it charges property owners a tax, to pay for upkeep on the canals, laterals, drains and dams in the water system. Many owners don’t realize they owe the tax, even if they don’t use the irrigation water.

Screen grab usbr.gov / Bureau of Reclamation

The three big reservoirs on the Boise River started summer with a good bit of water left over from the previous year. Altogether, they are a little under half full right now. That’s below normal, according to Brian Sauer with the Bureau of Reclamation in Boise.

“And we’re still in irrigation season so it will drop some more,” Sauer says.

inl.gov

Scientists say a continued drop in underground water levels could make it harder to monitor the movement of radioactive contamination in an aquifer below an eastern Idaho nuclear facility.

Researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey in a 36-page report released Monday say the Eastern Snake River Plain Aquifer has dropped below two wells and about a dozen more could go dry due to drought.

Nampa and Meridian Irrigation District

As summer temperatures heat up the Treasure Valley, many homeowners turn to their irrigation district to water their lawn. These districts crisscross  the Valley, but the largest is the Nampa and Meridian Irrigation District (NMID). And NMID says its tax time.

Bryant Olsen / Flickr

Environmental groups have filed a lawsuit to stop a forest project in western Idaho that they say will harm habitat needed by federally protected bull trout.

The Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Idaho Sporting Congress and Native Ecosystems Council filed the lawsuit Thursday in U.S. District Court in Boise against the U.S. Forest Service.

The groups say the agency violated environmental laws by approving the Lost Creek-Boulder Creek Landscape Restoration Project in September without proper environmental analysis.

Idaho Rivers United

The head of Idaho Rivers United (IRU) is stepping down. Bill Sedivy says after 16 years as executive director of the organization, he wants to spend more time on the rivers and less time in the office.

The non-profit Idaho Rivers United is celebrating 25 years as an advocacy group in the state. It works to protect Idaho’s rivers and fish, and has more than 3,400 members.

Sedivy says it was a love of river rafting that got him involved in protecting rivers in the first place.

ironpoison / Flickr

Farmers and ranchers in the West's worst-hit drought regions will receive an additional $21 million to help them save water and soil despite the long dry spell.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the aid Monday. The assistance will go to areas of the West that are rated in the highest categories of drought. That includes parts of California, Kansas, Idaho, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas and Utah.

The aid is meant to help farms and grazing pastures cope with drought through better irrigation, cover crops and other measures.

Boise River
Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

The public will have the chance to talk with elected officials about a power outage that caused the Boise River to dry up earlier this year. The Ada County Commission is holding a meeting on May 27 to discuss the accidental dewatering.

The Roza Irrigation District in Eastern Washington’s Yakima Valley is shutting off the water for two weeks because of drought. About a billion dollars in crops are on the line.

Idaho water managers say they are conducting negotiations to prevent mass water shutoffs from Jerome to Idaho Falls even though a final deal could result in long-term farming changes for southern Idaho irrigators.

The Capital Press reports that groundwater irrigators have fallen short in providing enough water to two canal companies.

The canal companies are owed nearly 89,000 acre-feet of water because they own senior water rights. Senior water rights take priority in Idaho.

A drive across the Northwest quickly reveals things look really dry everywhere.

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