Southwest Idaho canal systems to shut off water early

Published online: Sep 01, 2013
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BOISE-Several Treasure Valley irrigation districts will start shutting water flows off in September, about a month earlier than normal.

Water supplies in the valley were far below normal this year and some irrigation districts had previously talked about shutting flows down in August.

"I was thankful our water lasted until (September)," said Meridian farmer Drew Eggers, who had to get creative to make it through the season, including harvesting a first-year mint field two weeks early. "It was a struggle but we made it."

With this season winding down, farmers and irrigation districts are setting their thoughts on next year.

Carryover water supplies will be very sparse at the end of 2013 and if snowpack levels aren't above normal this winter, it could make growing conditions very challenging in 2014, Eggers said.

"We're relying on the winter snowpack for next year's crop ... because nobody has any carryover water," he said.

Nampa & Meridian Irrigation District, the valley's largest, will shut down flows in its 500 miles of canals on Sept. 5.

NMID typically delivers water until the first week of October -- flows were halted on Oct. 4 last year -- but 2013 was marked by meager snowpack and below-normal precipitation, said NMID Water Superintendent Greg Curtis.

NMID supplies irrigation water to 69,000 acres of farmland, residential and commercial lands in Idaho's Treasure Vally.

Curtis said water levels in the Ridenbaugh Canal will begin to decline quickly after the canal headgates are closed at the district's Boise River diversion and it will take two days before water levels drop in the outer reaches of the system.

Boise Project Board of Control, which provides water for five irrigation districts in the valley, will also shut off water flows Sept. 5.

The BPBC had to cut the annual allotment for its customers from the normal 3-plus acre-feet to 1.4 acre-feet this year to make it to September.

Spring rains usually help the project keep water flowing into October, "but we didn't get that this year," said Tim Page, project manager of BPBC, which provides water to about 165,000 acres in the valley, the bulk of it to agriculture.

The BPBC will have a little carryover water left in Anderson Ranch reservoir, "but other than that, everything else will be depleted," Page said. "We really need an above-normal snowpack to fill things up and get back to square one."

The Pioneer Irrigation District board has set a tentative shut-off date of Sept. 25 for its Phyllis Canal, the system's largest. A tentative shut-off date of Oct. 10 was set for Pioneer's Highline and Lowline canals.

Pioneer reduced flows to its 5,800 customers by 20 percent this year to stretch the water year.

Pioneer board president Alan Newbill said the district is trying its best to continue to provide water to its users as long as possible "and those two tentative dates are our best estimates at the moment."