Idaho water outlook dims - Farmers advised to weigh planting options

Capital Press

March 17, 2002 - Farmers in Southern and Eastern Idaho will barely have enough irrigation water to get through another growing season, water officials predicted this week.

While the water situation in Northern Idaho looks good, and perhaps adequate in southwest Idaho, the outlook is decidedly more bleak in the southeastern part of the state.

“In the southern and eastern part of the state, there isn’t going to be a full water supply this year. In fact, there’s a pretty good chance we will end up about where we did last year,” Idaho Department of Water Resources spokesman Dick Larsen said this week.

Assuming normal precipitation levels the rest of the winter, the Eastern Idaho water outlook will be about the same as last year, when some irrigation shortages occurred, officials said.

“We have no carryover storage this year, but we’ll have more natural runoff, so the total amount of water will be about the same,” Larsen said.

Palisades, Jackson Lake and Anderson Ranch reservoirs aren’t expected to fill, based on below-normal runoff levels, U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service officials said this week.

Normal or better precipitation is needed during the next six weeks to ensure adequate irrigation water supplies in Idaho, NRCS officials said.


The Idaho Farm Bureau Federation warned producers to anticipate water shortages as a new planting season approaches.

“Unless precipitation exceeds normal amounts significantly in the next two months, shortages are imminent,” IFBF Director of Information John Thompson said.

“Although there’s still time for precipitation to alleviate drought concerns, producers are advised to carefully consider their planting options as spring progresses,” Thompson said.

It’s likely that several canal systems won’t be able to deliver enough water to bring some crops to full maturity, IFBF officials said.

“In Eastern Idaho and the Magic Valley, sugarbeets, potatoes, beans and corn are the biggest concerns,” Thompson said.

Streamflow forecasts decreased 5 to 20 percent across most of Idaho as a result of below normal precipitation in February, according to the Idaho Water Supply Outlook Report issued March 1.

Streamflow forecasts range from a high of 120 percent of average in Northern Idaho to 42 percent of average in the Bear River Basin in southeastern Idaho.

The March 1 water outlook report issued by NRCS included the following look at selected basins in Idaho:

  • Panhandle Region: Streamflows will be 90 to 120 percentage of average. Water supplies will be adequate and much better than last year.

  • Clearwater River Basin: Dworshak Reservoir inflow is forecast at 112 percent of average and will fill this year.

  • Weiser, Payette, Boise River Basins: Streamflows are forecast to be 88 to 90 percent of average. Water supplies should be adequate.

  • Wood and Lost River Basins: Magic Reservoir is nearly empty at 10 percent of capacity, and the streamflow is forecast at 78 percent of average. Irrigation water shortages could occur.Upper Snake River Basin: The streamflow forecast ranges from 60 to 80 percent of average. Water users should prepare for possible shortages, depending on water rights and water sources.

  • Southside Snake River Basins: Salmon Falls Reservoir is nearly empty at 8 percent of capacity. Oakley and Salmon Falls water users should prepare for irrigation water shortages, especially if spring precipitation is below normal.

  • Bear River Basin: Streamflow forecasts decreased significantly from February and calls for much below normal runoff volumes at only 42 percent of average for the Bear River below Stewart Dam.


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