Skip to Content

IDWR confirms settlement reached in water curtailment

UPDATE June 20, 2024 1:30 p.m.: BOISE, Idaho (KIFI) - The Idaho Department of Water Resources has confirmed a settlement has been reached between the Surface Water Coalition and ground water districts for the 2024 irrigation season.

Below is IDWR news release explaining the agreement.

 On Thursday, June 20, the Idaho Department of Water Resources (IDWR) announced that a comprehensive settlement had been reached between the Surface Water Coalition (SWC) and ground water districts in the Eastern Snake Plain region for the 2024 irrigation season. 

Over the last two weeks, Lt. Gov. Scott Bedke has been working on bringing the two parties together to reach a deal for this irrigation season that prevents curtailment. 

“I give the credit to the parties who came together to negotiate, compromise, and work this out in the Idaho way,” said Lt. Gov. Scott Bedke. “Now that this is settled for 2024, we can begin working on what the future looks like for aquifer management and mitigation to the senior water users.” 

Added Gov. Brad Little: “Just like we’ve done over and over, Idahoans came together, resolved our differences, and found a path forward to protect farmers and our supply of water for the year. However, we recognize we still have a lot of hard work to do. We will be okay for this year, but we all agree we need a better plan in the out years to protect our farmers and ensure Idaho maintains our water sovereignty. We remain committed to working with all water users in Idaho to ensure we have a sustainable supply of water for this generation and future generations.” 

“I am pleased that the parties to this delivery call were able to negotiate a settlement for 2024 that avoids large-scale curtailment of land irrigated from junior ground water wells,” IDWR Director Mathew Weaver said. “The parties did what I cannot do. They agreed to management solutions outside the strict legal confines of an approved mitigation plan and the priority administration of water rights.” 

While IDWR officials were pleased to see a settlement reached for this irrigation season, they noted that any groundwater users who are not members of a ground water district or other organization with an approved mitigation plan are encouraged to join a district to avoid curtailment. 

Last week, on June 13, IDWR officials paused enforcement efforts due to reports that settlement discussions were in progress. 

For the 2024 irrigation season, all Eastern Snake Plain Ground Water Districts will conform to the 2016 mitigation plan, in which the Ground Water Districts will collectively conserve 240,000 acre-feet of ground water and deliver 50,000 acre-feet of storage water to the SWC. In return, all members of the ground water districts will again be protected from curtailment. In addition, the parties agreed to a set 

of actions, including recognizing excess conservation activities performed by the ground water districts in 2023, to cure the ground water district’s 2022 breach of the mitigation plan. The parties also committed to negotiating a new mitigation plan by the end of the year to protect juniors from curtailment in the future. 

As part of the Surface Water Coalition’s conjunctive administration delivery call, IDWR issued a curtailment order on May 30, affecting ground water rights junior to March 31, 1954. To avoid curtailment, ground water users with priorities junior to that date must operate under an approved mitigation plan. 

Consistent with past curtailments, non-consumptive uses, culinary in-house uses, and exempt uses of water for domestic and livestock purposes are not subject to curtailment. 


Under Idaho’s prior appropriation water law, water users with senior water rights have priority over water users with junior rights. On the Eastern Snake River Plain, IDWR has administered both surface and groundwater resources together as one whole, or “conjunctively,” since 2005. 

Under the SWC’s water delivery call in 2005, the Director of IDWR is required by law to issue an order at the beginning of the irrigation season and again in early July determining the shortfall in senior surface water user water supplies due to the pumping impacts of junior groundwater users. When the Department calculates a shortfall, junior groundwater users must mitigate their impacts or be curtailed. 

Please see the IDWR FAQ about the May 30 curtailment order. 

Below is a news release from the Idaho Ground Water Appropriators from June 19, 2024:

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (Idaho Ground Water Appropriators News Release) – Groundwater irrigators and surface water irrigators have completed a deal that saves 330,000 acres of Idaho farmland from being dried up and averts economic catastrophe in the state.

A mitigation agreement for 2024, brokered by Governor Brad Little and Lt. Governor Scott Bedke, has now been signed by all parties and has been submitted to the Idaho Department of Water Resources (IDWR) for approval. When the deal is approved, IDWR will lift the curtailment for all nine groundwater districts whose patrons irrigate with groundwater from the ESPA.

“This is a huge relief to our members, who have had their livelihoods threatened over the past month,” said TJ Budge, attorney for Idaho Ground Water Appropriators. “We want to thank Governor Little, Lt. Governor Bedke, Senator Van Burtenshaw and, especially, all of our groundwater district members for their sincere and significant efforts to get a deal done before it was too late.”

Though this agreement allows farmers to continue growing crops in 2024, it does not fix the underlying issues with the way Idaho is managing the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer (ESPA). Groundwater districts are putting considerable trust in the state to fulfill promises that a more pragmatic and effective management plan will be implemented before the next growing season.

“We have learned that the way the Idaho Department of Water Resources currently goes about managing the ESPA is not working,” said IGWA chairwoman Stephanie Mickelsen. “Without meaningful change to how water resources are managed over the coming months, we will find ourselves right back in this same position and all of Idaho will end up paying the price. We look forward to working with state leaders to chart a path that is in the best interest of the state moving forward.”

Ground water districts are committed to developing a ground water management plan that avoids massive water curtailments and protects farmers who have already planted crops for the season from sudden changes in their access to water.

The curtailment was ordered after IDWR projected a 74,100-acre-foot shortfall of surface water to the Twin Falls Canal Company, a senior water right holder in the Magic Valley. The new plan mitigates for that shortfall and continues the commitment of IGWA members to recharge the Eastern Snake River Plain Aquifer.

Article Topic Follows: Breaking News

Jump to comments ↓

Author Profile Photo

News Team


KIFI Local News 8 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content