Regional water supply meeting details tough outlook for Idaho

Posted at 4:14 PM, Mar 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-03 18:14:53-05

Climate and water resource experts met Thursday to detail drought impacts to the northwest region of the U.S.

For Idaho, difficult conditions prevail for the foreseeable future without significant moisture, according to officials meeting for a NOAA Northwest water supply and drought briefing.

Related: Idaho Water Supply Committee: Record-dry January, drought outlook 'grim'

"Last year we had a surprise drought," David Hoekema, a hydrologist with the Idaho Dept. of Water Resources, said. "The driest since 1924 and that really impacted our reservoir system leaving us drier than normal."

Because of last year's drought, reservoirs Idahoans rely on weren't replenished to the full extent — a continued drought this year means farmers and ranchers may be working with a much more limited supply.

Related: Idaho farmers battle the ongoing drought

A drier landscape also means higher risk for wildfire conditions.

"These timescales we're looking at for this drought are stretching back at least 12 months in some cases longer," Hoekema said.

To determine drought level, climate experts look at the long term precipitation deficits, soil moisture content, stream flows, snowpack levels, evaporation levels, and more sets of data. But more rain doesn't necessarily correlate to fixing dry conditions, so experts are prepping for the current drought to intensify without high enough levels of precipitation to replenish several years of dryness.