Water Rights

Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

Water managers are crediting a new Idaho law with keeping water from leaving the state.

Idaho Department of Water Resources bureau chief Brian Patton says the updated policy is making things a little better for the Eastern Snake River Plain Aquifer. He says the state's existing water right is for one 1,200 cubic feet per second. But with all the snow southern Idaho received this winter, 15 times that amount was flowing down the river at different points.

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.

 

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.”

New York Canal
Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Idaho water regulators have ordered 160 eastern Idaho groundwater users to cut back their consumption.

The Post Register reports that the Idaho Department of Water Resources on Wednesday announced a curtailment order that will go into effect June 3 and will shift water rights over many upstream users to the Surface Water Coalition, a group of Magic Valley irrigators with senior water rights.

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.

Thomas Hawk / Flickr Creative Commons

Fremont County is the most recent addition of Idaho communities to receive a drought emergency declaration from the state. Blaine, Lincoln, Butte and Custer counties were given the designation on April 10, the earliest time for a state-approved drought declaration in the last five years.

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.

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.

U.S. Senate

Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden had bad news Thursday for farmers, fishermen, and tribes who signed on to a water rights settlement in the Klamath Basin in 2010. The senator told the groups their plan for resolving the water crisis is too expensive.

The Klamath tribes hold senior water rights to the headwaters of the Klamath river. In the settlement, called they KBRA, the tribes agreed provide a steady supply of water to farmers in exchange for big investments in habitat restoration and fisheries management.

Amelia Templeton / EarthFix

This week, water regulators are ordering dozens of ranchers along Southern Oregon’s Williamson River to shut down their irrigation pumps. It’s the latest round of shutoffs near the headwaters of the Klamath River. The state says it is necessary to protect treaty rights of tribes who live downstream. But the water shut-off jeopardizes a multimillion-dollar cattle ranching industry.

Frank Kovalchek / Flickr Creative Commons

If you were to go to the banks of the Snake River downstream of Milner Dam near Burley, you wouldn’t see much more than a trickle of water. That’s because the federal Bureau of Reclamation shut off the river flow on June 4.

For at least 25 miles, there isn’t enough water for a kayaker to paddle through. Idaho Power runs the hydroelectric plant at the dam, and says the zero flow will impact its operations through late July.