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Dry March contributes to a below-average water outlook in Idaho

Posted at 4:54 PM, Apr 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-09 18:54:08-04

BOISE, Idaho — Current Snotel data indicates that Idaho Has reached its peak snowpack and the melting season has begun allowing the National Resources Conservation Service or NRCS to put together its April water outlook for 2021.

Whether you hate the snow or love it, Idaho winters are important for the transition of seasons and this year the majority of river basins have a below-average snow water equivalent.

"I think our perception is it is worse than it is because it was a pretty dry winter in the valleys and March especially was pretty dry," said Danny Tappa a hydrologist with the NRCS.

The biggest concern for the state of Idaho comes from the Big and Little Wood River Basins close to Sun Valley and the Big Lost Basin to the east, data shows this region has experienced drought-like conditions since April of 2019.

“We have real concerns for adequate water supplies so there doesn't look like there will be enough water to go around for all the irrigation demand in those basins," said Tappa. "The score isn't completely settled we have a couple of months left of what is normally our wet season."

Farmers, irrigators and water users in the rest of the state should experience a normal irrigation season because the numbers weren't too low and Idaho has a long-term management plan for its reservoirs.

“Based on what's carried over from last year and what is expected to come there should be an adequate supply for irrigation demand," said Tappa.

This winter Idaho experienced a wet November and a strong February that had most of the river basins over the 100 percent mark, but the rest of the months were dry and March produced only around 50 percent of the precipitation that normally happens in March.

One silver lining is that there likely won't be flooding this spring, but all of this can change depending on the weather in April and May.

"I don't think we are out of the woods on that, but the odds of it are quite low," said Tappa.

For river rafters and kayakers who are seeking big Idaho water during the spring runoff, the places to go this year are the Lochsa River and the different forks of the Clearwater.

The floating season should still be decent, but there will likely not be any crazy high water events in the Salmon, Payette or Boise River Basins.