Irrigators Face a 'Blue' Monday

Published online: Aug 09, 2004
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Idaho irrigators woke up to clear, cloud-free blue skies with temperatures throughout potato-growing areas expected to reach into the 90s for the entire week.

But causing them the most concern is not the shiney blue sky but the fact irrigation water supplies are dropping so fast that it is feared many will run out of irrigation water before the close of the irrigation season.

Snake River storage system reports show that the entire Upper Snake River Storage system stood at 26 percent of full Monday morning. Last Friday it was at 28 percent. With that kind of precipitous drop, growers must locate rental water--with those supplies pretty well gone--or exchange with other systems and other growers. This opportunity is given to them if their counties have been declared emergency disaster areas. Most eastern Idaho counties have been.

Monday's morning read out on the reservoirs showed Jackson Lake at 31 percent, Palisades at 25 percent and American Falls, 15 percent. It isn't unusual to see the A.F. reservoir that low, as it has happened in years past because of the great draw-down in an attempt to keep up with the water rights needs of growers from the smaller Milner and Walcott reservoirs. These systems irrigate the hundreds of thousands of acres in the Magic Valley and many of them are for senior water rights holders..

However, the drawdown is also having an effect on the smaller reservoirs such as Ririe, Island Park, Henry's and Grassy. These four had totals ranging from 69-51 percent full Monday morning.

Most growers expected to lose their water in August and were told so before the season began. So the Monday blues have just been added upon by the news that outflow is much greater than inflow on the entire S.R. system and it will take some kind of miracle to get them through to harvest.