Drought is no longer a significant concern in East Idaho, but flooding could be.
The snow water equivalent in the area above Palisades is 144 percent of normal, said Tony Olenichak, program manager for the Idaho Department of Water Resources’ Water District 1. The Henrys Fork and Teton area is at 123 percent, and the Willow, Blackfoot and Portneuf area is at 102 percent.
“That’s real good for snowpack,” Olenichak said, adding that due to low water levels last year, there is still plenty of room in the reservoirs to capture runoff.
Storms in February doubled the normal monthly precipitation in parts of the state, according to a report released this month by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.
“February brought just what was needed: rain to the lower elevations to prime the soils and get the streams flowing above their low baseflow levels from last fall,” according to the Idaho Water Supply Outlook Report. “Abundant snow fell in the mountains, and cold temperatures kept the snow accumulating in our mountains to provide our annual water supply.”
If East Idaho experiences normal precipitation and temperatures in the months ahead, Olenichak said there should be a good water supply for agricultural and recreational needs without much flooding; however, more wet weather could cause problems.
“It’s still too early to tell what will happen,” Olenichak said, adding that they should know more about the flooding potential when it gets closer to peak runoff times in May and June.
Although the water outlook in East Idaho is good, there are still some concerns in parts of the state that don’t have as much snow water equivalent. For instance, the Owyhee basin is only at 49 percent of normal. That could lead to surface irrigation shortages, according to the Idaho Water Supply Outlook Report.
“As you go further west and south, the snowpack is below average,” Olenichak said.