Idaho Commences Winter Recharge Pilotby John O'Connell
Capital Press, November 3, 2014
Idaho has started a winter aquifer recharge program it hopes will help address
declining aquifer levels with surface flows that wouldn't otherwise be put to beneficial use.
BOISE, Idaho -- The state has started conducting a winter aquifer recharge pilot project, using water that wouldn't otherwise be put to beneficial use.
The Idaho Water Resources Board has a recharge water right that takes effect in the fall, when canal companies stop irrigating, and remains effective through the following spring. Throughout the winter, about 500 cubic feet per second of water continuously spills unused below Milner Dam, the lowest storage reservoir in the Upper Snake Basin.
Recharge injects surface water into the aquifer, where it remains in the system longer, benefiting well irrigators, and bolstering declining spring flows when it emerges. On Oct. 27, the state commenced recharging in American Falls Reservoir District No. 2's Milner-Gooding Canal, both through losses from the bottom of the unlined canal and through injections at a recharge sink hole known as Milepost 31.
Twin Falls Canal Co. also commenced with recharge using 8 miles of unlined canal from Milner Dam to Murtaugh Lake. Southwest Irrigation District is poised to start recharging water soon, and North Side Canal Co. is interested in doing test recharge early next spring, said IDWR Planning Bureau Chief Brian Patton.
"This year will be a test year to see whether we can really make this winter recharge idea work," Patton said. "We'll know more as we go along and see what kind of problems come up and see what kind of issues we need to overcome."
For this season, the state has implemented a tiered payment structure to cover costs associated with recharge for participating irrigation entities in the Milner pool, offering higher payments for longer durations of recharge. Patton is hopeful that roughly half of available water flowing past Milner will be recharged this winter.
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