Low snowpack could impact Idaho whitewater, wildfire season

Arrowrock Reservoir, Boise Mountains


by Bonnie Shelton

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Posted on January 20, 2014 at 6:54 AM

Updated Monday, Jan 20 at 4:50 PM

BOISE -- Researchers say recent snowfall didn't do much to impact southern Idaho's water outlook.

"We need several weeks of that wet weather to continue," said Ron Abramovich.

Time is running out for storms to bring enough snowpack to fill area rivers and reservoirs this year.

Forecasts show the rest of January will be mostly dry.

"What we need is precipitation that's 150% of normal between now and April 1," said Ron Abramovich, NRCS water supply specialist.

That translates to 140 inches of snowfall across the Boise basin. Without more precipitation, there will be a wide range of impacts.

If you like whitewater rafting, hydrologists recommend planning ahead because whatever snow we do get could melt quickly.

"And so there's still going to be a rafting season, but if we don't get the snow its going to be short and a short duration so be ready to go when the snow starts melting," added Abramovich.

Wildfire managers are also preparing for tough conditions. Burn scars in the mountains from last summer's wildfires pose a risk.

"There's no vegetation up on the hills right now or very minimal," said Abramovich. "If we have a rapid warmup or rapid melt or rain on snow event we could see some of the mud flows again like we saw in September."

Hydrologists say if the snow Idaho does get melts quickly come April, it will mean more dry fuel for wildfires too.

"Chances of getting the precipitation in the summer time are very slim because you know it's very dry here," said Abramovich.

Experts say there's still time for mother nature to turn on the spigot. They'll continue monitoring Idaho's basins and mountain ranges to see what this water season will hold.

You can check NRCS snow reports from around the state by clicking here.