About 80 water users, including some local farms, water and sewer district and government bodies, will be affected by a water curtailment that will start on June 21.
The curtailment is in response to a water call by members of the Surface Water Coalition, a group of irrigation districts in the Magic Valley with senior water rights. The Idaho Department of Water Resources predicts those water users would otherwise see a 15,850 acre-foot shortfall this irrigation season, and the department is legally required to keep senior water users whole.
“We’ve made a determination that there is an injury and a shortfall,” said department Deputy Director Mathew Weaver. “We’re kind of past the stage of uncertainty.”
The list of entities with groundwater rights subject to the curtailment includes some farms in both eastern Idaho and the Magic Valley, as well as the Woodville Water and Sewer District in Bingham County, the Taylor Mountain Water and Sewer District in Idaho Falls, the Sunroc Park Water Association in Idaho Falls, South Park Estates Water and Sewer in Shelley, Mountain River Ranch in Ririe, Jefferson County's government, the Canyon Creek Lateral Ditch Association in Madison County, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and Blaine County School District 61.
"It's a real cross-section of water users," Weaver said.
However, Weaver said four to six of the 85 entities on the original curtailment list won't be curtailed after all, since they showed they are taking part in an approved mitigation plan.
The department said in a news release there are six approved mitigation plans for the surface water delivery call, benefiting members of the Idaho Ground Water Appropriators; the A&B, Southwest and Goose Creek irrigation districts; and some cities locally and in the Magic Valley.
"The mitigation plans of IGWA and the Participating Cities allows participating ground water users to avoid curtailment this year and in the future, as well as avoid future litigation issues related to water use in the ESPA area that could affect cities, commerce, industry, agriculture and the Southern Idaho economy," the news release says.
The curtailment order says the affected entities, which hold non-enlargement groundwater rights in the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer with priority dates junior to April 12, 1994 and enlargement rights junior to March 14, 1971, "must curtail/refrain from diversion and use of ground water pursuant to those water rights, unless notified by the Department that the order of curtailment has been modified or rescinded as to their water rights. The curtailment order also requires that watermasters for the water districts within the … (area) who regulate ground water are directed to review the water rights … and begin contacting the water right holders in their respective districts to evaluate and determine how the water rights will be curtailed."
The department's news release says groundwater levels have partially recovered due to state-sponsored aquifer recharge efforts, but not enough to avoid the call.
"As a result, IDWR will predict shortfalls to the senior surface water right holders even in years such as 2019 , when federal storage reservoir operators forecast near-normal runoff and full reservoir supplies," the news release says. "The April 1 joint forecast prepared by the United States Bureau of Reclamation and the United States Army Corps of Engineers predicted 3.2 million acre- feet of runoff from April to July at the Heise gauge of the Snake River, which is 99 percent of normal."