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Idaho hopes solid snowpack will help replenish aquifer

ESPA recharge lake
Rachel Cohen
Boise State Public Radio
An aquifer recharge site in Jerome County.

Wesley Hipke watches water rush into an artificial lake in the sagebrush desert of Jerome County, where it’ll sink beneath the surface. He’s the aquifer recharge manager for the Idaho Department of Water Resources.

Sending water underground is part of Idaho’s plan to replenish the aquifer after decades of decline.

Hipke said the average to above-average snow year for southern Idaho means the state has already exceeded its annual goal of recharging 250,000 acre-feet of water each year. It could reach 400,000-acre feet by the end of the season, around mid-May. For the past few years, the goal has not been met, thanks to a multi-year drought.

"That’s why it's really important, when we have these opportunities, to put as much into the ground as we can," Hipke said. "So this year is going to really help build that aquifer back up.”

There’s catch up to do, he said. Underground water levels in the ESPA hit all-time lows last year.

That's part of the reason why, despite filled reservoirs this spring, the Department of Water Resources issued a notice this month saying there could be irrigation shortages this summer.

That would mean farmers who draw from the aquifer and are not part of a state-approved mitigation plan could get their water shut off.

The state will make an updated irrigation order in July based on spring weather.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

Copyright 2024 Boise State Public Radio

I cover environmental issues, outdoor recreation and local news for Boise State Public Radio. Beyond reporting, I contribute to the station’s digital strategy efforts and enjoy thinking about how our work can best reach and serve our audience. The best part of my job is that I get to learn something new almost every day.

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