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Aquifer recharge program shows success

Recharge of the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer is on course to exceed a recharge goal of 250,000 acre-feet of water this year. Recharge is expected to surpass 200,000 acre-feet this week.

Idaho Water Resource Board recharge project manager Wesley Hipke said he hopes to surpass the record of 317,000 acre-feet of water set last year. “Now that colder weather has settled over the ESPA region, we expect recharge flows to decrease in the short term because of freezing temperatures and icy conditions in the canals, and then pick up again in the early spring when temperatures warm up.”

The recharge program benefited from a surplus of reservoir storage in the Upper Snake River region. The Surface Water Coalition donated 61,000 acre-feet of water for recharge between August 30 and early November 2017.

The board has been working to expand the number of recharge sites that have the potential and capacity to participate in the program and also boost the capacity of existing sites. So far, more than 100,000 acre-feet of water has been recharged into the ESPA from the Upper Snake region, above Minidoka Dam, by eight different irrigation districts or canal companies. The board pays the districts and canal companies to conduct managed recharge using the Board’s water rights on a per-acre-foot basis with funds provided from the Idaho Legislature.

“We are starting to see the benefits of the board’s recharge program in the ESPA, along with contributions from the Surface Water Coalition and IGWA,” Hipke said. “However, to meet our long term goals when water isn’t as abundant, we need to continue to expand the recharge infrastructure.”

Last year, ground water monitoring wells showed that the ESPA was beginning to bounce back, showing an increase in storage of at least 660,000 acre-feet.

According to the Idaho Water Resources Board, here are the contributions of irrigation companies as of January 5, 2018.

Snake River – below Minidoka Dam:

American Falls Reservoir #2 – 88,105 a.f. Twin Falls Canal Co. – 4,950 a.f. SWID – 4,306 a.f.

Snake River – above Minidoka Dam:

Fremont-Madison ID – 42,486 a.f. Farmers Friend Irrigation Co. – 10,300 a.f. Great Feeder Canal Co. – 20,222 a.f. Idaho ID – 3,076 a.f. Snake River Valley ID – 8,697 a.f. Enterprize Canal – 5,230 a.f. New Sweden ID – 2,661 a.f. Aberdeen-Springfield Canal – 8,703 a.f.

Big/Little Wood River:

Big Wood Canal (BWCC) – 1,307 a.f.

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