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Water board discusses aquifer and $10 million agreement

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TWIN FALLS — In the past six years, the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer gained 2.5 million acre-feet of storage.

The Idaho Water Resource Board met Thursday and Friday in Twin Falls for their regular meeting and discussed the changing water levels.

Although the aquifer has increased overall, more than 550,000 acre-feet was lost from 2020 to 2021, said Mike McVay, an Idaho Department of Water Resources hydrologist.

“Nature still rules the roost and we have to deal with her,” McVay said.

The aquifer supplies drinking water to about 300,000 people and irrigation water to more than 2 million agricultural areas, according to IDWR.

Volume increases can be attributed to recharge efforts by the board and the 2015 settlement of Eastern Snake Plain groundwater users, McVay said. After decades of declining aquifer levels, groundwater irrigations agreed to collectively reduce pumping.

“Aquifer management has substantially improved the level,” said Noah Stewart-Maddox, a hydrogeologist with IDWR.

Idaho Water Resource Board meets up

Vince Alberdi, recently retired from the Idaho Water Resource Board, speaks during a tour Thursday, July 22, 2021, of the Norris Pond Complex in Twin Falls.

Twin Falls City Manager Travis Rothweiler spoke at the meeting during the public comment period. He brought forth an agreement the city made in 2008.

Water irrigators were facing curtailment and the city participated in the negotiation agreements. Twin Falls contributed financially and in turn, was supposed to acquire a new water right referred to as “Pristine Springs water right.”

“The city was a partner and it contributed in good faith $10 million to the overall effort,” Rothweiler said.

Although the city has paid off the $10 million, they still have not been given the water right, he said. Many things have happened since 2008, including a settlement and additional conditions.

“I liken it to I went to the car dealer, I bought a car, I made all my payments and now I’m still waiting to be able to drive my car,” he said.

The board also adopted a list of priority water projects across the state, broken into three different tiers. Cassia County has a possible tier-one project.

Raft River basin is a potential site for cloud seeding generators and other equipment. This process involves injecting silver iodide into clouds to produce more snow. Idaho Power currently uses the technology in the upper Snake River basin.

On Thursday, the board toured the Twin Falls Canal Company’s facilities. The next water board meeting is on Sept. 16 and 17.

A trip down the Hagerman stretch of the Snake River with the Idaho Guide Service.


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