Idaho Officials Authorize
by Associated Press
TWIN FALLS, Idaho -- State water officials are hoping to take advantage of a plentiful water year to help replenish the heavily used Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer, but tight budgets may limit the plan.
The Times-News reports that the Idaho Water Resource Board met last week and approved a plan to spend $132,700 on recharging the aquifer with more than 44,000 acre-feet of water. An acre-foot is enough water to cover one acre, one foot deep.
The aquifer stretches from Hagerman to St. Anthony and is roughly the size of Lake Erie. It supplies water to dairies, crop farmers, fish farms and residents of southern Idaho. Studies show the amount of water in the aquifer grew steadily from the early 1900s to the mid-1950s, when residents began drilling more wells to tap the aquifer and convert the high tundra desert into suitable farmland. Some experts believe that the aquifer has been depleted at an average rate of 225,000 acre-feet per year since 1980.
The recharge effort approved last week will be the second this year. This spring more than 59,000 acre-feet of water was put back into the aquifer. To recharge, the board generally either pays irrigation canal operators to allow their water to seep through the walls of their canal, or the board sends the allotted amount of water to a pit. Either way, the water slowly is absorbed into the ground, where it seeps back into the aquifer.
All the recharge efforts this fall will occur below American Falls, said Rich Rigby, senior adviser for the Idaho Department of Water Resources. The Big Wood Canal Co., North Side Canal Co. and Southwest Irrigation District have all agreed to participate in the recharge efforts, Rigby said.
"Recharge tends to be opportunistic," Rigby said. "But we do the best we can to balance it out."
The Idaho Ground Water Appropriators chipped in $80,000 to help fund more recharge sites this year, but officials say there's still not enough money to recharge all of the water that is available.
"There is a limited amount of funding for recharge," said Lynn Tominaga, IGWA's executive director. "There are a lot of folks who would like to recharge but the money isn't there."
Recharge efforts will continue throughout December, Rigby said.
"It was a good water year," he said. "Now is the ideal time to do it."
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