You’ve been hearing about issues impacting water quantity in the Middle and Upper Snake River for years, but now the focus is shifting to water quality issues.

For too long, the Snake River has been polluted and overallocated, resulting in declining flows and unsafe water quality. Each summer, outbreaks of toxic algae plague its shores, preventing families from swimming and fishing in the river.

Over the past few months, the staff of the Idaho Conservation League has been actively working to address these issues and working alongside farmers, city officials, fish producers, dairy farmers and others to find solutions.

Ultimately, restoring the health of the Snake River and its aquifer will be a significant undertaking but as Lao Tzu said, “a thousand mile journey begins with one step.”

Here are some of the recent steps we’ve taken:

  • Toured dairy and potato farms with a local farmer and representative from the Idaho Farm Bureau to better understand the issues facing agricultural producers in the Magic Valley.
  • Attended and participated in several meetings of the Mid-Snake Watershed Advisory Group in Twin Falls. Sponsored by the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, the group meets monthly with a goal to revise the Clean Water Act plan to clean up the stretch of the river from Milner Dam to C.J. Strike Reservoir.
  • Presented ICL’s Groundwater Report to the Wendell Chamber of Commerce, Mid-Snake Water Quality Commission and others to raise awareness about nitrate and phosphorous pollution in the Eastern Snake River Plain Aquifer, which provides drinking water to 300,000 Idahoans.
  • Hosted an open house in Twin Falls with Friends of Rock Creek, a local organization working to promote the restoration and accessibility of Rock Creek, a major tributary that flows into the Snake in Twin Falls.
  • Attended the “Putting Numbers to Soil Health” forum to learn about efforts by soil and water conservation districts, producers, soil health professionals and researchers to promote healthy soils and water quality in the Magic Valley.

Ultimately, the campaign to make the Snake River safe, swimmable and fishable again will require efforts from Idahoans across the state. By working to better understand the issues and communicate our concerns, we’re hopeful we’ll be able to achieve our goals for the benefit of current and future generations.