Fremont County is the most recent addition of Idaho communities to receive a drought emergency declaration from the state. Blaine, Lincoln, Butte and Custer counties were given the designation on April 10, the earliest time for a state-approved drought declaration in the last five years.
Counties apply for emergency declarations to the Idaho Department of Water Resources (IDWR). The agency then reviews conditions like snowpack and precipitation forecasts, and then drafts a recommendation if a drought declaration is warranted. The final step is to get Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's seal of approval, which allows counties to access temporary drought measures under a special statute.
A dry and warm winter in southern Idaho's agricultural region has made for an early limited supply of water. That's according to Mat Weaver, deputy director at IDWR.
"And because of those combinations and because we anticipate a hot summer, there will likely be a large demand of water for our agricultural needs," says Weaver. "So I would suspect there will be other emergency declaration requests coming."
Weaver says the drought declaration means farmers can transfer ground and surface water quickly, giving counties a way to opt-out of the usually rigorous approval process needed. He says in a drought situation, this flexibility is a relief for agricultural producers.
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