Letters From the West

Idaho water director warns he may have to curtail groundwater use in some areas

This map of the Treasure Valley water budget shows the data water experts use to plan water use for the future.

This map of the Treasure Valley water budget shows the data water experts use to plan water use for the future.

Idaho’s snowfall this week has improved the water supply expected for this summer. But the state’s top watermaster says we will need a lot more to prevent him from having to order some farmers and others to shut off their pumps.

Gary Spackman, director of the Idaho Department of Water Resources, told the House and Senate resource committees Monday to watch the skies.

“If we don’t have an above average year I may be in a position where I have to curtail thousands of acre-feet of groundwater,” Spackman said.

Under Idaho law users with older, senior rights can demand that users with younger, junior rights must quit pumping groundwater or offset the senior’s shortage. This curtailment is done under law by Spackman.

The Boise Basin and other areas of Southwest Idaho are among the lowest levels for water this year. Eastern Idaho’s upper Snake River Valley is the area with the best supply in the southern half of the state.

Rocky Barker is the energy and environment reporter for the Idaho Statesman and has been writing about the West since 1985. He is the author of Scorched Earth How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America and co-producer of the movie Firestorm: Last Stand at Yellowstone, which was inspired by the book and broadcast on A&E Network. He also co-authored the Flyfisher's Guide to Idaho and the Wingshooter's Guide to Idaho with Ken Retallic. He also was on the Statesman’s team that covered the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news in 2007. The National Wildlife Federation awarded him its Conservation Achievement Award.

Posted in Letters from the West