Water users cheer effort to develop linked management rules
It’s easy to say “first in time, first in right.” However, when you have a geological phenomenon such as the Snake River Plain Aquifer connecting surface water and groundwater, things get much more complicated, said Norm Semanko, executive director of the Idaho Water Users Association.
It is essential for Idaho to work through the connection between surface and groundwater, using the best science, and develop rules that will allow the state, through the Idaho Department of Water Resources, to jointly administer the water rights for both sources, Semanko said.
It is for that reason that the IWUA – an organization of irrigators – fully supports IDWR’s efforts to develop conjunctive management rules, he said.
“There was a time when the IDWR wasn’t doing this,” Semanko said. “Karl Dreher, the current director of the department, stepped into that void. Before he got there, there was a definite lack of leadership and management, with the whole issue left to be answered by the courts. It’s fortunate the department is now in the process of helping to get the job done.”
Ted Diehl, manager of North Side Canal Co. in Jerome, agrees. His canal company is participating with the IDWR in a cooperative effort to develop conjunctive management rules.
North Side Canal Co. holds early, natural-flow surface water rights. In drought years, that water isn’t always there, so the canal company depends on storage in the American Falls Reservoir.
On the other side of the issue, there are pumpers who drilled wells and installed pumps, the manager said.
“People have a lot of money involved in those wells and pumps. Water is becoming a scarce commodity. In Idaho, surface and groundwater are inter-connected. It doesn’t take much to disrupt the balance between the two.
“We have to think ahead, and manage the water right so our present and future needs are met. That’s going to take conjunctive management,” Diehl said.
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