Idaho irrigators, some fast coming to the end of their water supplies, don't need to run their pickups up and down canals trying to determine what water flow is available.
Thanks to the Bureau of Reclamation and the Idaho Department of Water Resources, all stream and canal flows are listed on a web site, with updates made several times a day. This gives irrigators nearly to-the-hour reports on just what amount of water is going where.
As of this morning, the Upper Snake River storage system held 30.5 percent of its storage water. The Palisades Reservoir stood at 28 percent full, Jackson Lake is at 34 percent, and American Falls reservoir at 25 percent.
With several more weeks remaining in the irrigation season, it will be a real close call for most water rights holders on the system's available water.
But despite all this, a decision made early in 2004 assures the BOR of some 335,000 acre feet of water for flow augmentation for ESA-enlisted species. This water has partially been delivered from the Payette River system in western Idaho. Some 160,000 acre feet will be taken from that system.
Another 3 percent of the available storage flow augmentation was promised by Snake River system irrigators early in the year when snowpack conditions indicated a less than the normal amount of water would be available for irrigation in 2004.
The Committee of Nine (canal company presidents), the entity in charge of Water District One (the Upper Snake River rental pool in eastern Idaho) gave its approval of the commitment made in early spring. Despite being in the fifth year of drought, and with growers struggling for every drop of water, the commitment was made and will be adhered to.
But, on the other side of the coin, the BOR approved an exchange agreement under which the Twin Falls Canal Company and the North Side Canal Company secured natural flow water rights available in the Idaho Water Bank.
The water was made available to replace more than 50,000 acre-feet that the BOR would have delivered to the Snake River from storage. The Idaho Department of Water Resources is protecting the rented natural flow supplies as if they had been released from storage.