Thursday, March 22, is World Water Day – and there’s no better time to celebrate Idaho’s bounty of wild rivers and world-renowned fisheries.
Since I was a child, I’ve loved rivers. And living in Boise, I feel fortunate that I can visit the Boise River every day. Not only that, but once warmer weather arrives, I’m less than an hour’s drive from multiple whitewater runs on the Payette and South Fork Boise. Idaho is a river lover’s paradise!
Idaho Has Many Wild and Scenic Rivers
Sen. Frank Church knew that so well that, fifty years ago, he introduced the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The WSRA acknowledges and preserves rivers for their wild, scenic and recreational character. Two of the original eight wild and scenic rivers are in Idaho – the Middle Fork Salmon and Middle Fork Clearwater (including the Selway and Lochsa rivers). Today, Idaho boasts twenty-two wild and scenic rivers.
This year, to commemorate Idaho’s role in the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act 50 years ago, our legislature passed Senate Concurrent Resolution 132 without debate. The value of these pristine streams has bipartisan support!
And anyone who’s spent time in Idaho’s backcountry likely feels that many more Idaho rivers are worthy of this distinction. Thankfully, you can chime in on that right now, since one of Idaho’s national forests is considering new wild and scenic river designations.
Other Rivers Need Our Help
But it’s not all wild and scenic rivers in Idaho. For as pristine and beautiful as some of our water is, we have lots of room for improvement when it comes to water quality and management. We use a LOT of water in Idaho. In fact, Idahoans use more water in and around their homes than people in any other state. And that’s not counting agriculture! When we look at agriculture, Idaho’s irrigation diverts the second most water of any state but California – even though we don’t have the second largest agricultural economy.
Idaho’s longest river, the Snake, is in trouble. Its headwaters include world-famous trout fisheries, but by the time the Snake reaches the Hells Canyon complex of dams on our western border, it can be so toxic that it makes people sick and kills animals. Unfortunately, the Snake is not Idaho’s only river with such toxicity problems.
Like many states, Idaho relies heavily on groundwater for drinking water. And we have serious, unresolved pollution issues from agriculture and other industries that threaten the healthy of our groundwater.
Still, We Have Lots to Celebrate!
Despite these issues, we have so much to celebrate about water here in Idaho. Boise is home to the Dixie Drain, a nationally recognized water quality trading project. And we have our aforementioned wild and scenic rivers, with the possibility of more designations.
This week, help ICL celebrate Idaho’s water. Keep your eyes glued to your email, our website and our social media pages for opportunities to share what YOU love about Idaho’s water.
Right now, we’re having a giveaway on our Instagram (@idahoconservationleague). Head on over to our account and enter for a chance to win an ICL koozie and pair of ICL chums – perfect accessories for your next river adventure! You can also take action to speak up for additional wild and scenic river segments in the Clearwater Basin.