State issues irrigation curtailment order

BOISE, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - The Idaho Department of Water Resources is predicting a 15,850 acre-foot shortfall in meeting priority senior surface water rights in the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer region this summer.

The department issued a curtailment order Thursday that could affect groundwater users if they are not already participating or complying with an approved mitigation plan. Approximately 85 water users may face curtailment.

The curtailment order states that junior groundwater users with priority dates of April 12, 1994, will be subject to curtailment and enlargement water rights with priority dates of March 14, 1971, will be subject to curtailment in the ESPA region, if they are not participating in a mitigation plan. 

"By law, we have to keep people with senior water rights whole, and we need to notify affected junior groundwater pumpers that despite the recent historic settlement agreements between the Surface Water Coalition, IGWA, and the Participating Cities, if an affected junior groundwater pumper is not already participating in an approved mitigation plan they will be curtailed this year," said Mathew Weaver, Deputy Director of IDWR.  

There are six approved mitigation plans.  They benefit members of the Idaho Ground Water Appropriators, Inc., A&B Irrigation District, Southwest and Goose Creek Irrigation District, and some participating cities.

Although groundwater levels have partially recovered due to state-sponsored recharge, groundwater pumping reductions, and ample water years, aquifer water levels have not yet recovered to levels necessary to avoid conjunctive management. As a result, IDWR will predict shortfalls to the senior surface water right holders even in years like 2019, when federal storage reservoir operators forecast near-normal runoff and full reservoir supplies. 

The April 1 joint forecast prepared by the United States Bureau of Reclamation and the United States Army Corps of Engineers predicted 3.2 million acre-feet of runoff from April to July at the Heise gauge of the Snake River, which is 99 percent of normal. 

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