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On Your Side: Will the water pass farmers by?

Posted: 6:28 PM, May 11, 2017
Updated: 2017-05-11 20:41:52-04

Water experts from all over the Gem state met up Thursday morning in the City of Trees.

In past years, a topic of concern was not having enough water for the irrigation season. However, there has been plenty of water this year leaving the question if reservoirs will be full come July.

There's no doubt it has been a historic weather year in all of Idaho.

One of the speakers comments: "February runoff, right here [pointing to a chart], is the third largest runoff in the last 100 years."

The continued precipitation into Spring has delayed the planting season for many farmers. But, even among the balancing act of letting enough water out to alleviate pressure on the dams, while not completely flooding the Boise River, farmers are concerned that all the water will pass them by.

Good news is that water experts said at the meeting they expect reservoirs will be full on July 1. In the meantime, they're bracing for a wet ten day forecast.

"That rain can really change things," says Chris Runyan, a hydraulic engineer with the Bureau of Reclamation Reservoir Operations Group in Boise.

Water managers are letting even more water out of the system because of the forecast and the likelihood irrigation water orders will be down when it rains. They have been planning for this water flow peak since Feb. They point out that, historically, above normal snowpack rates do not necessarily equate to a higher than average runoff year.

Those monitoring reservoir levels say everything this year is dependent on weather-related events and that's the main factor in looking at the bigger picture.

"What's really been the game changer, no doubt about it, has been the February, March and into April precipitation," Runyan says. "We had 300 percent of the average in April. So, essentially you can think of that as three months worth of precipitation in one month."

A hydraulic engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Russel Lodge, reminds people to remain extremely cautious.

"I urge people to stay away from the gravel pits and stay off the greenbelt. We have high waters, and it's been wet for a long time so the banks aren't stable," Lodge says. "It's very dangerous."