We all love our beautiful rivers and streams, whether we fish in them, raft them, or hike alongside them. And we all can appreciate the importance that our surface water and groundwater have in providing us with clean water to drink and use on a daily basis. But how do we, as a local community, express these values in a way that can influence decisions that are made about our water resources? Revising our local public interest water policy (LPIWP) is a great opportunity to do so!
Next week, the Blaine County Commission will host a workshop to solicit public input on the local water policy. The LPIWP will serve as an outline of our values and interests when it comes to our water resources, as well as lay the groundwork for the County’s official comment to the Idaho Department of Water Resources whenever water right applications are reviewed (more on that below).
By revising the LPIWP, Blaine County is providing us with an opportunity to express our principles with regards to our precious water resources. We certainly support the county’s move, and we need you to provide your input and show your support as well.
Background on the LPI Water Policy
When deciding whether to issue new water rights, the Idaho Department of Water Resources (IDWR) considers whether it is in the "local public interest" to do so. Idaho Code mandates that the IDWR shall determine whether any water right application in question "conflicts with the local public interest." Theoretically, the LPIWP is a way for IDWR to make sure it takes local values into consideration when it comes to new water uses, and it’s an important way for local governments, communities, and citizens to have a say when it comes to how the water is used. From the county’s perspective, this policy also serves as a general outline of the public interest in protecting and preserving the quality and quantity of Blaine County’s water resources.
Interestingly, Blaine County is the only county in Idaho with a formal local public interest water policy. Originally adopted in 1998, Blaine County is now revising its LPIWP for the first time. The original policy was a good start, but now that it is 20 years old, it is time to update it with our current knowledge and values.
Strong Local Policy Protects Your Rivers, Drinking Water, Recreation, and Water Rights
Our water resources in Blaine County, especially in the Wood River Valley, are in extremely high demand. In severe drought years, this demand can exceed the available water supply, leaving some high and dry. In addition, the heavy use of the river itself has resulted in water quality issues at times. Certain stretches of the Big Wood River are currently listed as impaired due to sediment, phosphorus, and E. coli. It is in all of our best interests to promote sustainable use of water resources, protect local water quality and prevent harm to existing water uses.
If you’re a local resident and want to take a meaningful step to protect your water resources, attend the Blaine County Commission workshop on Tuesday, Feb. 13 and demonstrate strong public interest in this issue.
Provide Input on Blaine County’s Policy
Blaine County’s plan is to update the LPIWP to reflect our current values when it comes to protecting our water resources. With water quantity and quality issues on the rise in the Wood River Valley, it is more important than ever to express these values in a policy that is considered by the relevant decision makers.
If possible, plan to attend the public workshop of the Blaine County Commission on Tuesday, Feb. 13 from 10:30-11:30 am. In preparation for the workshop, take a few minutes to read the current policy and think about what you like and what you’d change. Here are some points to consider when providing input and support for this proposal:
- Blaine County is the only county in the state to have developed this type of local water policy!
- This policy will provide IDWR with a summary of our values to consider when making decisions on water appropriations cases.
- Conservation, protection, and efficient use of our precious water resources should be front and center in this policy.
- Protecting the water quality in our county is another key component to look for in revised policy.