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State committee reviews Idaho water supply status

NRCS snowpack map 11.18.19
NRCS
NRCS Snowpack Map

BOISE, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK)-Idaho is getting a late start on winter, despite a cool and wet September.

And Steve King, with NOAA's Northwest Forecast Center in Portland, told the Idaho Water Supply Committee Monday there is a high chance of below-normal precipitation over the next two weeks.

King reported water temperatures along the equator in the Pacific Ocean are indicating a neutral effect, indicating neither an El Nino or La Nina influence at this time. That means an above-normal chance of receiving higher than normal temperatures over the next three months. The three-month precipitation outlook shows no sign of above or below-normal trends, but most likely "equal" chances, King said.

Snowpack is currently measuring below-normal statewide. It varies everywhere from 20% to 80% of normal in various locations.

Idaho Power told the committee Monday, it does plan to do cloud-seeding this winter. 57 generators and 3 aircraft will be based in eastern Idaho. Records indicate cloud seeding generally increases snowfall by 8% to 15%.

NRCS Snow Survey representative Danny Tappa said reservoir storage is high. He said most water users could get by with a 50% of normal runoff and still have a full water supply next summer.

Overall storage in the upper Snake is 128 percent of average or about 60 percent of capacity. "We're looking really good for next year," said Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) spokesman Brian Stevens. "We're coming off a really good water year in the Upper Snake."

BORpointed out that current reservoir storage is 70% of average at Jackson Lake, 77% at Palisades, 80% at Grassy Lake and 50% at Ririe.

Idaho Water Resource Board Recharge Program Manager Wesley Hipkey said the board recharged 475,000 acre-feet of water into the East Snake Plain Aquifer (ESPA) this year.

Over the last 3 years, ESPA storage has increased by 1.7 million acre-feet. Idaho Department of Water Resources hydrologist Mike McVay compares the aquifer to a leaky bathtub.

. "If we don't keep going with recharge and water reductions, all of that surplus water goes away," he said. "We're doing great. We have to keep going with all of the existing efforts to restore the aquifer."

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