Idaho snowpack

The recent series of snowstorms that have battered most of Idaho over the past few days have pushed up mountain snow levels in most basins of the state.

Snow levels have climbed to 160% of average in some basins. A week ago, snowpack levels in many basins across the state were below average; well below in some cases.

Until the recent series of storms, the snow year had started very slowly, said Tony Olenichak, program manager for Water District 1, Idaho’s largest water district, which encompasses the upper Snake River system and provides enough water to irrigate well over 1 million hectares.

Snow accumulation in the Snake River Basin above Palisades was 100% of normal as of December 28. Just a few weeks ago, it was closer to 60% of the average.

“We had a lot of snow last week,” Olenichak said.

Rainfall is good, but it’s the snowpack that fills Idaho’s major reservoir systems, which supply water to farmers and other irrigators during the state’s hot, dry summer months.

A severe drought and early-season heat wave in 2021 left most reservoirs in Idaho with far less water than they normally have heading into the next hydrological year, which begins. October 1.

Irrigators were hoping for a very good year of snow to help fill reservoir systems next year.

“We drained the reservoirs lower than we usually drain them because it was so hot and dry last summer,” Olenichak said. “We need to have an average to above average snowpack to have a chance of filling the reservoirs.”

Recent snowstorms have been great for snow levels, he said, but it’s still early in the snow season and a lot more is needed to ensure a good water supply for the 2022 growing season. .

“He has to keep coming to get us out of this hole we have in our tanks,” Olenichak said. “We’re not there yet.”

Bob Carter, director of the Boise Project Board of Control, which supplies water to five irrigation districts in southwest Idaho, said recent storms have left him optimistic about the water supply. of 2022, but he also said a lot more snow was needed.

Snow accumulation in the Boise River Basin was 121% of normal as of December 28.

Many factors contribute to the filling of Idaho’s reservoirs and an adequate water supply, including soil moisture levels and how quickly or slowly snow from the mountains melts on its way to these reservoirs. If soil moisture levels are good and the snow is melting at a steady rate, more of it reaches the reservoirs.

But the most important factor when it comes to filling the reservoirs is the snow level and in late December, the weather is nice in the mountains of Idaho. But it must continue, Carter said.

“It’s a very good start, but we need it to continue,” he said. “We have a big hole to fill in these reservoirs.”


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