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Snowy December provides optimism for the 2022 water outlook

Posted at 2:41 PM, Jan 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-13 16:41:02-05

The Idaho Water Supply Committee held its first meeting to provide an early look at the water outlook for 2022 following last year's drought conditions.

Above-average rain during October primed the soil for all the snow that fell in December and right now virtually all of the water basins in Idaho are over 100 percent for the snow-water equivalent and that's true for most of the west.

"It’s the beginning of the story but we have increased our odds at seeing an above-normal snowpack," said hydrologist Daniel Tappa of the Natural Resources Conservation Service. "We have increased our odds because we built a buffer right now with enough snow that we typically see a month from now."

Some of the big news comes out of the Sun Valley Region as the Big Wood, the Little Wood and the Big Lost basins are all above 135 percent, this area has been the hardest hit by the drought in the last couple of years.

"They are the best off of anywhere and that is great to see because we know the folks in those given communities have been the hardest hit by the extended drought," said Tappa.

The data provides optimism for farmers, ranchers, irrigators and people who rely on recreation, but during last year's drought the snow-water equivalent was around 100 percent at the end of February and then it stopped snowing and it didn't rain much last spring.

Because of last year's drought, the reservoirs don't have storage like in past years that water users could count on if mother nature doesn't cooperate.

"That actually provides a buffer for us we know we have that to fall back on we don’t have that this year," said Tappa. "So we really need a healthy snowpack and a normal to an above-normal runoff season to fill those reservoirs again to have enough water to go around to all the water users."

Forecasters during the meeting predict that Idaho will fill the reservoirs, but it is a marathon, not a sprint and we still have a long way to go.

"This is the beginning of the story there is a lot more to go and so much of it depends on the future weather component," said Tappa.

The Idaho Water Supply Committee will have its next meeting on February 10 at 1:30 p.m.