Water managers discuss current drought conditions after active weather patterns

Idaho Water Supply Commitee meeting
Posted at 2:21 PM, May 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-12 20:05:05-04

After a record-dry start to 2022, rain and snow returned to Idaho in April, complicating expectations for water supply this year.

Thursday morning the Idaho Water Supply Committee met to discuss how this recent precipitation has impacted the drought outlook.

“It’s not been wet enough to pull us out of drought,” said David Hoekema, Idaho Dept. of Water Resources hydrologist.

According to Hoekema and the other water supply experts, the precipitation over the past two weeks has helped. For example, the Payette Basin gained 224,000 acre-feet of water supply, and the Boise Basin gained 196,000 acre-feet. Overall, the state gained about 1 million acre-feet of additional water supply.

“I would say overall, you know, I think we’re going to see drought improve a little bit, and my hope is that if we stay wet and cool we might see drought recovery by the end of summer but that's if we stay wet and cool," Hoekema said.

During the recent wet and cold period, snowpack levels plateaued and cold temps halted spring runoff which started in some areas mid-March. Now, that runoff may not be too active until later this month or early June.

Water managers say their biggest factor in irrigation distribution is proper storage. Right now they’re taking actions to do that, for example working to fill Lucky Peak to 3,035 feet aiming to hold water levels until early July for late-season distribution. There are recreation impacts from this active water management, three boat ramps won’t be available at Lucky Peak due to low water levels this season.

Ultimately, the overall water supply outlook remains heavily dependent on incoming weather.

The Water Supply Committee is not planning to meet again until this upcoming fall.