Experts say above average precipitation needed for normal water year

Arrowrock Reservoir, Boise Mountains

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by Jamie Grey

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KTVB.COM

Posted on January 10, 2014 at 4:59 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 10 at 5:20 PM

BOISE – It is a critically low water year and experts from around the state met Friday to talk about just that and give their predictions for pulling out of the situation.

Water experts from the government, Idaho Power and others gathered at the Statehouse where we learned just how far below normal snowpack levels are around Idaho, with specific concerns for southern Idaho mounting.

To have a chance to get back to normal levels and recover the water year, hydrologists say Idaho needs above normal precipitation for the rest of the winter.

The National Weather Service says while it looks like there is a nice storm coming this weekend, indications aren't great for the long term.

"If you go look further out through the late winter into the spring, we just don't see anything in the climate signals or the sea surface temperatures that lead us to believe we have a strong chance of seeing above normal precipitation," said hydrologist Troy Lindquist with National Weather Service.  “So right now there's a lot of variability, possibilities in the way this water season or winter season could turn out."

Historically, Idaho has recovered from water levels this low at the beginning of January, so it is possible, though it's a tough statistic to beat.

"If you look at long term record for the Boise Basin, out of 52 years, about four of those have recovered to near normal by April first,” said hydrologist Ron Abramovich with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. “So that’s only about an 8 percent chance of recovering to near normal by the first of April."

On the other hand, a few good storms can drastically change the outlook, so there is still hope to save up enough water for 2014.

"It's still early in the water season and there's plenty of time to catch up on some of the snowpack,” said water operation manager Brian Sauer with the Bureau of Reclamation. “We may not have enough to top off the reservoirs, but we're hoping we should be able to get enough to get through another water season."

The Legislature convened Monday and it has already been made clear by lawmakers and the governor that Idaho's water supply will be a big topic of discussion and funding plans.

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