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THE IDAHO GROUND WATER APPROPRIATERS An Overview of Our Current Water Situation The Need to Manage the Snake River Plain Aquifer.

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Presentation on theme: "THE IDAHO GROUND WATER APPROPRIATERS An Overview of Our Current Water Situation The Need to Manage the Snake River Plain Aquifer."— Presentation transcript:

1 THE IDAHO GROUND WATER APPROPRIATERS An Overview of Our Current Water Situation The Need to Manage the Snake River Plain Aquifer

2 Who we are… IGWA members include agricultural, industrial and municipal ground water users across southeastern Idaho –Farmers & dairymen –13 cities –Members of the 10 groundwater & irrigation districts –Industrial users, food processors In all, IGWA represents more than 1 million acres of agricultural land and 120,000 residential and business customers IGWA’s mission is to represent their interests, including the promotion of efficient use and economic development of water resources…Idaho’s Lifeblood

3 Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer Provides 97 percent of the water used by Idahoans who live on the Eastern Snake River Plain: –One third of Idaho’s population lives in the Snake River Plain region –Consists of all or part of 20 counties –9,000 square miles or 35% of the state The Aquifer itself underlies 10,000 square miles or 13 percent of the State of Idaho It holds as much water as Lake Erie

4 The Snake River Aquifer

5 Under The Surface 90% of the aquifer is made of basalt lavas

6 The Eastern Snake River Plain Remote sensing tools show the basalt lavas are 4,000 to 5,000 feet beneath the surface of the Plain.

7 Who Uses The Aquifer? Municipal and domestic water wells Agriculture-Irrigation with groundwater Agriculture-Irrigation with surface water that is fed by spring discharge into river Springs-Aquaculture and other uses Commercial and industrial uses Tourism Wildlife/environmental benefits

8 What Recharges Our Aquifer? Direct Precipitation Underflow from Tributary Basins Seepage from streams overlying the aquifer Leakage from canals Deep percolation of irrigation water

9 What Recharges Our Aquifer?

10 A Complicated Issue It’s counter-intuitive, but more efficient use of water on the surface has caused a decline of aquifer levels since the 1950s. –Sprinkler irrigation –Lined ditches –Land/field layout improvements –the curtailing of winter water diversions –increased spring water applications –deep well pumping These practices became strongest after the 1977 drought Recently, six years of drought added to the problems without additional supplies replenishing or making recharge water more available to the aquifer

11 Prior Appropriation Doctrine Water law in Idaho and the West is based on a simple idea: first in time, first in right -- this means Senior water rights holders have priority over Junior water rights holders Yet, Idaho water law stipulates that Idaho water must be used to the maximum economic benefits

12 Thousand Springs Situation In 2005 Blue Lakes Trout Farm and Clear Foods’ Springs Snake River Farm made water delivery calls. This is when a senior water right holder experiences a shortfalls in water they are beneficially using and are entitled to receive. The Director of the Idaho Department of Water Resources, who administers water rights issued a curtailment order on junior water rights holders. These orders ended up in litigation with a ruling that IDWR could proceed with issuing the curtailment order.

13 Most Recent Actions On June 15, IDWR issued a curtailment order affecting affects 591 groundwater rights that included approximately 16,638 acres of southern Idaho farmland in Blaine, Butte, Gooding, Jerome, Lincoln and Minidoka Counties On July 6, that order was lifted when the IGWA and the Idaho Dairymen's Association, with the help of upper Eastern Idaho irrigators, provided mitigation water satisfying IDWR’s goals of supplying water to senior water rights holders

14 A few recent headlines… ‘Magic Valley farmers wrestle with uncertainty over water’ ‘Water Fight: Restraining order lifted’ ‘Water chief: Shut offs will be enforced’ ‘Deadline set in fight for groundwater’ ‘Farmers, industry brace for curtailment’ ‘Will state cut off water Friday?’ ‘Magic Valley headed for an Armageddon summer in ’08’ ‘Water Resources director accepts mitigation plans, cancels curtailment’

15 A Crisis Averted…For Now If the curtailment had become a reality: –Estimated direct losses of $1,200 for every acre lost –The direct economic damage to Idaho farmers and their families would have been tens of millions of dollars –Devastating loss for many Indirect impacts? No one really knows: –Bank loan defaults –Retail businesses –Dairies –Food processing plants –Property taxes, sales taxes Safe for 2007…but with no solution in sight, what about 2008?

16 A Path Forward… State leaders unveiled the comprehensive ESPA Comprehensive Aquifer Management Plan Framework earlier this year It’s goal: “To sustain the economic viability and social and environmental health of the Eastern Snake Plaine by adaptively managing a balance between water use and supplies.” An advisory committee and aquifer users of the aquifer are working together to further develop that framework

17 Advisory Committee Working For a Solution Municipalities Businesses Land Developers Surface Water Users Ground Water Users Springwater Users Hydropower Domestic Well Owners Environmental/Conservation Mixed Use County Assessors

18 A simple water solution? We believe the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer holds the key to the resolving the water supply conflicts of the past 50 years. If systematically managed, it essentially becomes the largest reservoir in the West – an even more valuable resource

19 Active & Adaptive Systematic, targeted aquifer recharge and storage program An opportunistic recharge program Identify and implement additional water supply enhancement projects Maintain or enhance programs and personnel necessary to monitor and manage supply & demand Revise state water bank to provide appropriate incentives and policies for water storage management

20 Water Management Objectives Increase predictability for water users by managing for reliable supply Create alternatives to administrative curtailment Manage overall demand for water within the Eastern Snake River Plain Increase recharge to the Aquifer Reduce withdrawls from the aquifer

21 IGWA’s Underlying Principles  Maximize the beneficial use of water resources to the fullest potential  Protect water rights and personal property rights  Periodic drought should not drive permanent policy  With aquifer management, spring discharges can be sustained at historic levels

22 Maximizing Beneficial Use No one use should be allowed to command entire aquifer Long term sustainability is possible through active and adaptive aquifer management Maximizing retention of water in Snake River basin above Milner is vital

23 Protect Property Rights It is essential to honor and sustain personal investments of stakeholders based upon water rights All water rights are property rights, regardless of their priority, and must be mutually respected Protecting the investments of all stakeholders is vital to the health and viability of surrounding communities and the regional economy

24 Droughts are not permanent Periodic drought conditions should not be allowed to dictate the permanent dislocation of water-based economies Active aquifer management can support all beneficial uses during below-normal water years and increase water supply certainty for all users

25 Historic Spring Levels Spring discharges can be sustained at historic levels But artificial discharge records of the 1950s can never be reached again – even with the complete curtailment of all ground water pumping IGWA believes spring discharges can be stabilized at the current above- average levels Improvement is possible with proper aquifer management

26 What’s Next? ESPA Advisory Committee will continue seeking a a long-term resolution Idaho Department of Water Resources will hold hearings October 10 in an effort to avert a situation like we just experienced and have a curtailment order issued by the IDWR. Only as a last resort will IGWA will seek a court-mandated resolution to protect our private property water rights and keep Idaho farmer’s in business

27 Critical Times for Water Users This is one of most critical times for water users in the state of Idaho – and we all use water Two different paths: –One leads to the development of a negotiated resolution tailored to accommodate all interests to the maximum extent possible –The other leads to continued contentious litigation to further define the relationship between the principles of the prior doctrine Both lead to the same place – development of a comprehensive aquifer management plan The question is whether we want to define our own destiny or leave it to the courts to do so

28 Websites of Interest Idaho Water Policy Group Department of Agriculture Department of Environmental Quality Food Producers of Idaho Idaho Association of Commerce & Industry Idaho Council on Industry and the Environment Idaho Supreme Court Legislative Services Office Public Utilities Commission Soil Conservation Commission Department of Water Resources Idaho Water ResourceBoard Idaho Water Resources Research Institute Idaho Water Supply

29 For More Information Contact Idaho Groundwater Appropriators, Phone: Fax: P.O. Box W. Main, Suite 300 Boise, Idaho


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