Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo
Annual snowfall in Idaho's mountains is what feeds most Idaho waterways, and measurements of snowpack provide an excellent forecast of expected water resources. Around this time of year, people from all sectors are eagerly reviewing this information and planning their year. Without a doubt, our water supply is a critical element to Idaho's economy and a major factor in annual productivity.
The importance of water to Idaho communities cannot be overestimated. Public and domestic water supplies support Idaho's population of more than 1.5 million. Over the past ten years, Idaho was the 4 th fastest growing state in the nation, and water fed this growth and development. Water is essential for Idaho agriculture's production of more than 185 different commodities. It sustains Idaho's aquaculture industry, which produces a remarkable 73 percent of our nation's trout. Water supports nearly 3 million head of domestic livestock in Idaho. It supports a multitude of fish and wildlife populations, helping to boost our tourism industry. Water produces power that diversifies our energy sources and helps meet the need for domestic energy production. Access to water is crucial for almost all Idaho industries, municipalities and recreational interests.
Fortunately, this year's estimates look promising. From January through June, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) measures snowpack to help provide water supply estimates. While ultimately spring precipitation will play an important role in what our water supply will look like, the March Idaho Water Supply Outlook Report predicts Idaho's snowpack is expected to provide an adequate water supply this season for most users. NRCS also reported that "reservoir storage is in good shape, with many reservoirs reporting average or better amounts for the end of February." Other notable points in the report include the following: the Bear River Basin's snowpack of 124 percent of average is the highest since 1997; the lowest snowpacks in Idaho are 79 to 89 percent of average; and the Snake River near Heise is expected to have a 110 percent of average streamflow from April through July.
NRSC's full report can be accessed through the following link: http://www.id.nrcs.usda.gov/snow/. The Idaho Department of Water Resources also provides links to water supply information, such as river flow information by river, snow cover information, reservoir reports and precipitation and weather forecasts, compiled from state and federal water management agencies: http://www.idwr.idaho.gov/WaterInformation/WaterSupply/supply.htm
Access to an ample water supply enables the land and resource use that is instrumental in Idaho's continued advancement. Water, along with hard work and ingenuity, grew our economy and made it possible for Idahoans to help feed the world and build our state and nation. Water will continue to be a crucial resource for Idaho. As we put it to beneficial use, we must ensure that we manage it effectively, conserve it judiciously and adjudicate its disputes fairly. While we continue to prepare for the scarce years, let us hope for many more years of a plentiful water supply to support Idaho's production and progress.
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