By Mark Barnes
Just as Governor Butch Otter announced a proposed $15 million for new water projects in his state of the state address, including $1.5 million for a study to enlarge Arrowrock Dam on the Boise River, the Idaho Water Supply Committee announced bad news for the water outlook for 2014. Reservoirs are low and the current snowpack is below average making area farmers and ranchers nervous, especially after 2013’s short water year.
In Kuna, the primary source of water used for farming is irrigation water received from the Boise basin through a network of irrigation canals. This past year irrigation water available to farmers and residents was turned off in August leaving folks high and dry. This year, with current reservoir levels and low snowpack it could be worse.
January precipitation in the Treasure Valley is currently about one inch below normal levels. The U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook has the Treasure Valley including the Snake River predicted for an intensifying of drought conditions at an extreme level.
Estimates for the Boise Basin runoff are predicted to be 69 percent of normal. In 2013 they were 76 percent of normal.
The current reservoir storage for the Boise River system is below average but higher than 2008 where it was at the beginning of the year.
The current snowpack levels are even more disheartening. According to the National Resources Conservation Service snowpack levels across the state are below average. The Boise Basin is currently 60 percent of average levels, the lowest it has been since 1998. For comparison, at this time last year, the snowpack levels for the Boise Basin were 105 percent of average.
A short water year is not only bad for farmers, but for generating electricity through hydroelectric dams.
“There’s still a chance for recovery,” hydrologist Ron Abramovich of the National Resources Conservation Service said. “We’re just a couple storms away.”
Hydrologists say that there
will need to be above average
precipitation for the rest of the winter and spring to bring back normal levels.
Weather forecasters with the National Weather Service say the long-term readings do not show an increase in precipitation.
According to the National Resources Conservation Service, in the last 52 years, only four years recovered by April first, about an eight percent chance.