IDAHO, USA — Abnormally wet weather for a week is exactly what Idaho needed, according to Idaho Snow Survey Hydrologist Erin Whorton.
This calendar year started off to be one of the driest in state history which led to flatlining snowpack levels. Idaho needs a strong snowpack year to ease drought conditions and meet water demands, especially for agricultural use, according to Whorton.
However, nearly all snowpack levels below the Salmon River Mountains are facing a down year.
"We were seeing our snowpack start to melt quite early, early as mid-March. Which is really unusual," Whorton said. "Could mean a shorter irrigation season, could mean shorter curtailments. Just depends on what basin people are in. Yeah, it's gonna be a tough year."
The recent precipitation is helping reverse the problem, but the current scale is not sufficient on its own.
The Mores Creek Summit, for example, saw minimal gains in its snowpack from January 9th to March 17th, according to numbers from the United States Department of Agriculture. Its levels have been below the median year mark since the start of February.
The summit’s snowpack started melting in the final week of March. On a down year, the snowpack typically doesn't begin melting until mid-April, according to USDA numbers.
After recent gains, Mores Creek Summit snowpack levels are at 64% of the expected level for a median year. The recent snowpack gains are a step in the right direction, but more precipitation is needed to make a dent in the overarching problem; nearly 70% of Idaho is under severe drought conditions, according to U.S. Drought Monitor.
"This precipitation is certainly helping reduce the amount of shortages we expect to see in Idaho’s water supply," Idaho Department of Water Resources Hydrologist David Hoekema said. "There is a growing probability that the Little Wood and Boise rivers systems could see adequate water supply to meet irrigation demand. However, summer temperature and long-term improvements in the precipitation trend will be needed."
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