A study (see p. 51) recently commissioned by the Idaho Water Resource Board analyzes anticipated water needs in the Treasure Valley’s future. Looking 50 years out, the study predicts the valley will need anywhere from 160,000 to 283,000 additional acre-feet of water. (For reference, a full Lucky Peak reservoir holds about 280,000 acre-feet.)
If those numbers are correct, the people and communities of the Treasure Valley will have to decide how to achieve this. There are lots of options. Additional water storage via raising Arrowrock Dam or managing aquifer recharge is a possibility. However, there’s a more reliable, cheaper solution with fewer impacts-water conservation.
Water conservation comes in many stripes and offers many possibilities. Water providers could adopt tiered metering, meaning the more water you use the most expensive it becomes. The state and cities could provide incentives to take out grass or other water-intensive crops and vegetation. Water providers could implement systems where irrigation happens only at certain times and days, as opposed to whenever someone wants to water-allowing more users to share the same source of water. Water delivery canals and headgates could be updated. New developments could be planned within water use limits. And that’s just to name a few of the options.
In a recent blog post, the Idaho Statesman’s Rocky Barker encouraged Treasure Valley residents to contact their irrigation districts to start a dialogue about how the Treasure Valley should address its water future. That’s good advice because the more we do now to secure our water future, the better the odds that our water resources will be managed to provide the many values Idahoans appreciate in water.