Report on Governor Little’s Water Summit

Eastern Idaho Water Rights Coalition Members:

Governor Little’s first Water Summit was held in the State Capitol yesterday.  It was very well attended by legislators, city leaders, agricultural organizations, and leaders in the water industry.  Issues from all across the state were addressed.  This article from the Capital Press gives a brief summary and comments regarding the ESPA from Jay Barlogi, General Manager of the Twin Falls South Canal.  I hope the Capital Press follows up reporting on comments made from representatives of groundwater users, including Alan Jackson, manager of the Bingham Groundwater District or Jaxon Higgs, a consultant for the groundwater pumpers.  Here are a few of their comments.

Jaxon Higgs

  • 1 million acres are irrigated from groundwater on the ESPA.
  • The land value alone was worth $10 billion in 2009 and would be far more today.
  • Stopping the decline of groundwater in aquifers takes time.  It is slow to stop a downhill moving train.
  • The Idaho Water Resource Board now has capacity to recharge 2,300 cfs when available.  Problem is when recharge water is available there is often a lot, more like 10,000 cfs, so much more recharge needs to be developed.
  • Recharge efforts in Raft River and between Burley and Oakley spend far more per acre foot of recharge, because of pumping requirements, but it has to be done.  Recharge near Oakley has raised the aquifer level.

Alan Jackson

  • The Bingham Groundwater District encompasses much, but not all of Bingham County.  There are 2,000 groundwater rights, 1,000 wells, and 150,000 acres watered from the ESPA.  280,000 acre-feet are pumped per year.
  • There are multiple areas of the aquifer that respond differently.
  • Officials from the Idaho Department of Water Resources indicate that there needs to be a permanent reduction of some 170,000 acres of irrigated land on the ESPA.  Is this what the state really wants to happen, with all of the economic consequences?