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Water summit reveals success, challengesWater summit reveals success, challenges

Idaho shouldn’t become like California or Colorado, governor says.

Farm Press Staff

August 15, 2023

2 Min Read
Water runoff research
Soil microbiologist Jim Entry (left) and soil scientist Bob Sojka discuss data from irrigation water flowing from pastures into the Snake River in Idaho..USDA ARS

Idaho Gov. Brad Little and other state leaders are touting the success of last week’s water summit at the state Capitol, which delved into challenges to the state’s aquifers and other issues.

“Idaho must maintain our water sovereignty and not turn out like California or Colorado, where the federal government stepped in to address their water supply problems,” Little said. “Our historic investments in water since I took office just under five years ago are setting us up for success, but we have a lot of work to do.

“I appreciate all the participants in our first water summit for their dedication to working together to create Idaho solutions to Idaho’s water supply,” he said. “Our policies in Idaho demonstrate that we are true conservationists. People are moving here because of what Idaho looks like, and how we manage water is going to be incredibly important going forward.”

Little, Lt. Governor Scott Bedke, and Idaho Water Resource Board Chairman Jeff Raybould gave the audience a strategic look into the status of the state’s precious water resources during the Aug. 7 summit.

About 250 people were present and hundreds more attended online as Little and Bedke discussed three troubled aquifers – the Palouse-Basin Aquifer, the Mountain Home Aquifer and the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer.

Little noted that about $1 billion has been recommended and approved by the Idaho Legislature for water infrastructure projects since he took office. Through his “Leading Idaho” and “Idaho First” plans, the Idaho Water Resource Board has received $450 million to modernize the state’s water infrastructure statewide through grants, loans, and spending on water sustainability projects.

Treasure Valley stable

The water supply in the state’s most populous region, the Treasure Valley, is stable, officials said. Lining six miles of the New York Canal utilizing local, state, and federal funding is expected to save approximately 29,000 acre-feet of water per year – the equivalent of flooding 29,000 acres of land to the depth of one foot.

Officials also heard about water-conservation efforts in the Avimor community, north of Eagle, that are cutting residential water use in half. Idaho is also a national leader in cloud-seeding.

Being among the fastest-growing states in America adds to the state’s water challenges, Raybould said.

“Clearly, we’ve been discovered,” he said. “That creates even more challenges for us, especially with water supply and infrastructure. We need to make sure we conserve our water resources the best we can while operating within the bounds of the Prior Appropriation Doctrine.”

Raybould refers to Idaho water law, which gives priority to water users who have the most senior rights or, first in time, first in right.

More discussions and regional meetings may be held in the future to discuss water topics, Little said.

Source: Office of Idaho Gov. Brad Little

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