Idaho S.R. Storage Water Going Fast

Published online: Jul 21, 2004
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Remember being told to run your vehicle off the top half of the gas tank?

Idaho potato and sugarbeet growers understand the concept all too well. Many are staring water shortages squarely in the face as what storage levels remain have dropped precipitously this week.

According to U.S. Bureau of Reclamation figures, Palisades Reservoir is at 34 percent of capacity, Jackson Lake 39 percent, and American Falls Reservoir 28 percent.

Like running a vehicle, the bottom half of the tank always seems to go much faster than the top half. This is what's happening to the system's total remaining water storage of 36 percent.

Even though nice rain storms found some areas, days with cloud cover cooled things down and grain crops were made, it will be a very tight proposition for the fifth year in a row for Idaho growers.

In fact, many junior water rights holders were told before the season started that they would probably be out of water by some time in August. That prediction looks to be very reasonable as the hot days of July and August are taking a toll on crops in stages of bulking up and needing greater water amounts.

The system's total capacity dropped from 38 to 36 percent during one 24-hour period from July 19 to July 20. At that rate, the numbers are already on the ledger for growers from the Upper to those in the Lower Snake River Valley near Twin Falls.

It will be a race to the finish for irrigators, with those holding the oldest rights nervous about getting their water as the '04 irrigation season winds down.