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Idaho Dept. Of Water Resources predicts widespread drought, water shortages in southern Idaho

"Fifty percent of the state is currently in severe drought, and that percentage will increase in the coming months,” hydrologist David Hoekema said.

BOISE, Idaho —

Idaho Department of Water Resources (IDWR) heard predictions from water experts that southern Idaho will experience widespread drought and water shortages this summer. 

"The future is not bright," hydrologist David Hoekema said. "Fifty percent of the state is currently in severe drought, and that percentage will increase in the coming months. We are predicting water shortages in every basin in Southern Idaho, including the Payette." 

IDWR said Idaho started off with a great winter and record-breaking snowfall at the end of 2021. However, the snowpack in Idaho’s mountains has declined since Jan. 9 in every basin south of the Salmon River, leading a streamflow forecast to be 20-70% below-average for: the Snake River, Big Lost, Big Wood, Little Wood, Salmon Falls, Boise, Payette, and Weiser. 

Depending on how the weather plays out for April, the issue may become worse or slightly better, according to IDWR. 

"We're far enough along that there's very little chance of recovery," Hoekema said. 

Henry's Fork, the Bruneau Basin and other tributaries in the Snake River Plain are moving toward exceptional to extreme drought, according to Hoekema. 

However, Hoekema said that the Clearwater Basin and Panhandle region are doing better than southern Idaho regions, with runoff at or below average, but outside of drought conditions. 

Below is a list of Hoekema’s Northwest River Forecast Center streamflow runoff predictions: 

  • Boise River Basin – 775,000 acre-feet, 60% below average, similar to last year 
  • Payette River Basin - 1,007,000 acre-feet, 63% below average 
  • Big Wood River Basin – 70,200-acre-feet, 30% below average 
  • Little Wood River Basin – 29,400 acre-feet, 37% below average 
  • Big Lost River Basin – 81,000 acre-feet, 37% below average, but double the runoff predicted last year 
  • Henrys Fork - 843,000 acre-feet, 49% below average 
  • Snake River Basin – 2.4 million acre-feet, about 62% below average 
  • Bear Lake/Bear River at Stewart Dam – 55,000 acre-feet, 34% below average 
  • Salmon Falls - 22,200 acre-feet, 32% below average 
  • Owyhee River Basin – 169,000 acre-feet, 48% below average 

According to Hoekema, mountain snow is already beginning to melt this spring. 

The Idaho Department of Water Resources director, Gary Spackman, said he expects “a tough water year" for agricultural water users. 

"Hopefully the word is out and water users will plan accordingly," Spackman said.

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