State water board holds meetings in Pocatello; discusses solutions for water shortage

POCATELLO, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - For the first time, the state water resource board held its meetings in Pocatello. Several big topics were on the agenda for discussion.

One of the agenda items brought before the board was cloud seeding. Cloud seeding is a program started by Idaho Power in 2003. It's goal is to get more water out of storms. The process releases ice particles into the air during storms to try and pull out extra water.

That water could then be available for storage. The water resource board recently started funding cloud seeding. On Thursday, the board discussed further funding opportunities to help the program expand. Idaho Power said cloud seeding is extremely beneficial for helping with water shortage.

"Cloud seeding is really about the only way that we can bring new water, recruit new water into the watersheds," said Shaun Parkinson, Idaho Power's water resource leader. "All the other activities that are on the table that people are discussing to deal with the water shortages, really are just trading uses. Cloud seeding puts a little more water into the watersheds, gives us a little more time and flexibility to work through how we use and manage the remaining water."

Parkinson said cloud seeding usually brings in about 5% to 15% water from snow packs.

Another big issue discussed at Thursday's meeting was water storage in the upper snake river valley.

The board is working to find recharge sites for the aquifers to help refill water storage. There are about six or seven possible sites. In its meeting, the board discussed funding to do studies on those sites to see if any are usable.

Chairman of the water resource board, Roger Chase, said currently ground pumpers have agreed to cut back their water usage by 13%. Combined with possible aquifer recharge, he said it would really help water shortage.

"We understand that under the snake river plain we've pumped more water than we have," Chase said. "And so we're trying to find a way to a stabilize that. We're not going to have water so we can expand to more farms, but we want to make sure we have enough water to maintain what we have today."

Funding for studies on the sites could cost several thousand dollars. Chase said it would be about $25,000 per site. The board will vote on whether or not to approve funding Friday morning.

Meetings continue Friday starting at 8 a.m. at the Clarion Inn. The public can attend the meetings.

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