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Idaho Aquifer recharge to exceed '19 projections

Boise—With most of Idaho’s snowpacks above 120 percent of normal, the stage is set for another for another record water year.

Snowpacks across the state are well over 120 percent of normal, that could mean flooding and that also means more water will be used for recharge into the Snake River Plain Aquifer.

Idaho Department of Water Resources Recharge manager Wesley Hipke says February added a lot of snow to the mountains that means more water into the aquifer.

“We had heavy snow throughout Idaho and that really changed our outlook. It provided a lot more water for us to use. So this year I was looking at using a max of 170-thousand acre feet of recharge, now I’m projecting 290-thousand.”

Outside of Idaho Falls and at the site near Shoshone,  canal runoff water runs through the lava rock-desert to the injection site. Water runs swift and high her and it runs 24/7.  But recharge in Idaho is on a deadline—once irrigation season starts, the aquifer recharge program can’t use the canals

“There’s still some ice and snow in canals, but recharge flows continue to increase in the Upper Snake region and the Magic Valley region,” said Hipke, Recharge Program Manager for the board.

Surplus water flows may allow the board to conduct ESPA recharge activities through at least mid-April, Hipke said, adding that a more likely projection for the winter recharge season is 290,000 acre-feet of water flowing into the ESPA.

“We’ve had a big change from January until now,” Hipke said. “The month of February made all of the difference.”

Last year, the Recharge program set a record by recharging more than 525,000 acre-feet of water into the aquifer, doubling the annual goal. The Snake River plain aquifer rose by more than 1.7 million acre-feet in one year, the largest single- year increase in 8 decades.