Water rights battle sets the stage in regards to the future of water in Idaho

Posted at 5:42 PM, Nov 27, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-27 19:42:23-05

Idaho uses the third most water out of any state in the country behind only California and Texas according to a study by the U.S. Geological Survey who does a study every five years, the last one came out this summer and highlights water usage from 2015.

Irrigation is the main reason Idaho used 17 billion gallons of water on a daily basis in 2015 accounting for 85 percent of Idaho's water usage, however, that irrigation water also fuels one of Idaho's biggest industries.

Agriculture and food processing when combined make up 20 percent of Idaho's GDP and that amounted to nearly $16 billion in 2016 according to the Idaho State Department of Agriculture.

However, a legal battle over water rights is happening because Mountain Home is dealing with a shortage of water and they are trying to figure out a way to be sustainable in the future.

Elmore County put in a water application asking to transfer water from the Anderson Ranch Reservoir to the Little Camas Reservoir to meet their needs for water in Mountain Home.

That proposal has been met with resistance by neighboring Ada County because Anderson Ranch feeds into the South Fork of the Boise River which dumps into Lucky Peak and eventually travels through the Treasure Valley via the Boise River.

There is no precedent for an interbasin transfer of this magnitude, it would be the largest on record in the state of Idaho and the City of Boise, the Bureau of Land Management and several irrigation districts have come out in opposition of Elmore County's water rights application.

"This is maybe the canary in the coal mine to say it's time, we've got to look at it (water) now," said Marie Calloway Kellner of the Idaho Conservation League. "The debate that is happening over whether or not this water right should be issued and whether we should start moving water from one basin to another is alerting all of our elected leaders as well to the fact that we have a real problem."

We are planning a trip to Mountain Home to share their side of the story.