Water for Idaho’s Future

Sustaining the future or sustaining the status quo? Idaho has plentiful rivers — yet they are already overtapped. ICL believes that Idaho’s water future requires helping people and industries do more with less water.

In efforts to ensure that Idaho’s water resources meet the demands placed on them now and into the future, the Idaho Water Resource Board is creating the state’s first-ever water sustainability policy.

Idaho’s water resources are vast—we have more than 100,000 miles of river—yet they are incredibly overtapped. In 2010, Idahoans garnered the inauspicious honor of using the most water per person of any state in the nation. And Idaho’s irrigated-agriculture industry ranks second for water use in the nation, even though Idaho is not the second largest producer of agricultural products.

There are some great elements of the proposed policy: it prioritizes inventorying water supplies, drinking water protections and expanded use of water banks. But it also has some serious cons. Notably, the proposed policy doesn’t attempt to wean Idahoans or Idaho’s irrigated-agriculture industry from being among the biggest users in the nation. Instead, it emphasizes maintaining all of our current uses…essentially maintaining the status quo.

ICL believes that sustaining our water future doesn’t lie in maintaining the status quo. Instead, the water sustainability policy should help Idaho’s industries and people do more with less water—especially since climate models predict that warming temperatures will lead to less snow, more rain and earlier runoff across the state. The policy should help people adapt to new water patterns as opposed to clinging to the old.

And speaking of climate, the term “climate change” doesn’t appear anywhere in the policy. If we’re planning for the future, climate change is something that cannot be ignored.

The policy, currently in draft form, is open for public comment through September 2016. The Idaho Water Resource Board is holding a series of public meetings around the state this summer. If we have your email address, we’ll let you know when one is coming to a community near you.

In the meantime, if you have input regarding the draft plan, you can submit comments now (feel free to CC me at mkellner@idahoconservation.org on your comments):

  • Via email: SWP@idwr.idaho.gov
  • Via mail: IWRB, Attn: SWP, PO Box 83720-0098, Boise, ID  83720-0098

Together, let’s promote a vision of a sustainable water future for Idaho that goes beyond the status quo!

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