Idaho Dispatch

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Idaho Water Wars

By • June 12, 2024

The Idaho Department of Water Resources (IDWR) issued a water curtailment order on May 30, 2024. Because six of the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer (ESPA) region groundwater districts have disagreed with “approved mitigation plans” from IDWR, the junior groundwater users were facing the possibility of their 2024 crop being destroyed because of water being cut off.

The issue stems from an agreement made in 2016, which aimed to stop aquifer water loss and recharge the aquifer. This video explains the agreement:

From IDWR’s news release on May 30,

“The Director’s curtailment order, and other related orders from the past few weeks, clearly set forth the requirements for the Ground Water Districts to comply with either of their two existing approved mitigation plans and thus avoid curtailment. Because of ongoing disagreement with the Department and amongst themselves, the groundwater districts facing curtailment ultimately chose not to comply with either of their plans in the manner required. As a result, many junior groundwater users will be curtailed who might otherwise have been spared.”


Idaho Department of Water Resources Director Mathew Weaver issued a final curtailment order today, finding that six groundwater districts were deficient in complying with their existing, approved mitigation plans to address an injury volume of 74,100 acre-feet to senior water users.

The order indicates that water rights junior to March 31, 1954, in those six districts are now subject to curtailment.

The six groundwater districts found to be in noncompliance with an approved mitigation plan are:
• Bingham Ground Water District
• Bonneville-Jefferson Ground Water District
• Jefferson-Clark Ground Water District
• Magic Valley Ground Water District
• Carey Valley Ground Water District
• North Snake Ground Water District

“It is surprising to us that six groundwater districts would choose not to live by the terms of either of their approved mitigation plans and subject their members to curtailment,” said Brian Patton, Deputy Director of IDWR.

Under Idaho water law, water users with senior water rights have priority over water users with junior rights. On the Eastern Snake River Plain, IDWR administers both surface and groundwater resources together as one whole, or “conjunctively.” In general, groundwater rights are junior to surface water rights.

The 74,100 acre-foot shortfall is based on a number of factors including mountain snowpack, reservoir content, irrigation need, and aquifer conditions.

In this video, in response to the possibility of water curtailment, Idaho farmers say, “We’re all going to fail.”

IDHW released an update on June 6:

“On Wednesday, June 5, two Magic Valley-area ground water districts – North Snake and Magic Valley – filed notice with the Idaho Department of Water Resources (Department) demonstrating that they are now operating under an approved mitigation plan, officials said Thursday.

In response to North Snake’s and Magic Valley’s filings, the Surface Water Coalition delivered a notice of non-objection to the Department supporting the ground water district’s filings conditioned on adherence to their approved 2016 mitigation plan for the remainder of the irrigation season. As a result, approximately 2,400 junior ground water rights owned by members of those two districts will be protected from curtailment under the Department’s May 30 curtailment order.”

All IDWR news releases can be found here.

From this informative article, Idaho Senator Glenneda Zuiderveld said,

“[Idaho ground water users] should have considered all factors before planting their crops, opting for those that require less water. As junior rights holders, they are aware that they must keep in mind the senior rights holders. Because the senior rights holders are further down the line, we have to trust that they will only take what is allotted to them. When they do not, it curtails the farmers in the Magic Valley, forcing them to figure out how to finish the year. I am disheartened that this issue could not have been resolved without resorting to social media, which has caused public upset over possible curtailment of farmers if they don’t comply. We are doomed if we cannot handle these issues more constructively.

I know this to be true: no farmer wishes to see another lose crops. They all understand how vital every part of the agricultural community is to the livelihood of Idaho.”

According to this article, IDWR spokesman Steve Stuebner told East Idaho News on June 10 that although the curtailment was scheduled to take effect next Monday, the involved parties are discussing and working to come to an agreement. He said,

“Water users are working behind the scenes today to work out a deal for this water season, but nothing has been finalized as yet.”

On June 11, Idaho Lieutenant Governor Scott Bedke sent out a news release saying,

“Surface water and groundwater users are currently negotiating an agreement to avoid the water curtailment order from the Idaho Department of Water Resources (IDWR)…

“Since the last agreement between the surface water and groundwater users eight years ago, we have learned a couple of things for what a long-term solution requires: it must include an averaging component or details around the concept of water blocking. Our farmers deserve to know what their water allotment will be each year before they plant to meet their business and other obligations.”

“Agreements between farmers and water users are always better than ones made by the government or in a courtroom. I am optimistic that our water users will find a path forward that can meet the requirements for 2024, as well as come back to the table to craft an agreement to ensure our future generations have access to a predictable water supply.”

Bedke PR


Feature photo by abovethenorthwest shows waterfalls in Idaho’s Thousand Springs State Park

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Tags: Agriculture, Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer, Glenneda Zuiderveld, ground water districts, Idaho Department of Water Resources, Idaho Farmers, IDWR, Irrigation, junior water rights, Magic Valley, Scott Bedke, senior water rights, Steve Stuebner, Water, water curtailment, Water Rights

14 thoughts on “Idaho Water Wars

  1. Farmers facing water curtailment should consider this – It’s possible they’ve been relocating the rain with their cloud seeding program?

    This is from a 2023 article. Weaver states that some snowpack is greater in certain areas than others. Possibly areas being seeded are stealing water from other areas?

    April 2023:

    “Much of Idaho has an above-average snowpack this year due to a snowy winter and record-breaking March snowfall. But the situation is not universal across the state.
    This order focuses on the Upper Snake River Basin, which supplies water to the Snake River and the reservoirs.
    “Even though this has been a remarkable winter and water year for many basins in Idaho, it has not been uniformly great everywhere,” Weaver said.”

  2. The other side of the story has been reported. Thank you Senator Z and Idaho Dispatch for reporting this.

  3. In my opinion, this is a direct result of Governor Little’s Executive Order 2022-04 and the 500 page emergency prevention plan prepared by the Idaho Office of Emergency Management (OEM). You can read the abstract of a report scheduled for July 1st. here:

    Rubber-stamped by the State Legislature. Tell the poor bastards in Oregon that want to join Idaho: “Idaho Votes to Join the Left Coast.”

  4. This article certainly gives a more balanced writeup on the water curtailment than either the Fox News article or the Gateway Pundit’s article. This has been an ongoing problem for years, it seems like?

    OK, what is it? State or Feds? The article is not very clear on this. I suspect it is the State as the first in time principle seems to be at play here. And the shortage is predicted, not actual. So why a curtailment just now? Any good hydrologist could predict the inflow/ouflow and final storage amount in the feeding reservoirs.

    And why haven’t the farmers looked into buying or renting/substituting future water from the dominant senior allocation holder, Twin Falls? If they planted with out a guaranteed full season water supply, shame on them. Something doesn’t sound right here.

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    Bill Dovel
    17 minutes ago
    You think food prices are high now, just wait. Idaho has 500,000 acres involving 6,000 farmers suddenly having their water turned off during a good water year. This is being done after they have planted their crops. The bureaucracy couldn’t be more damaging with the timing of the decision. Water rights are a complex issue, but what is needed to be done has not been done by the Idaho Water Bureaucracy or the Governor’s office. Instead of creating an emergency plan for the next few years including recharging the aquifer they instead did maximum damage to these farmers. They should have been recharging the aquifer for years instead of letting millions of acre feet flow out of the state each year. Everybody knew they would have to recharge the aquifer they just failed to do so. Who is going to buy up those thousands of farms? Maybe Bill Gates who already is Idaho’s largest farmer and holds more water rights than the average farmer. Maybe the number 2 largest farmer in Idaho, the Chinese Communist Party could buy them. They probably love a good deal. There was a candidate running for governor that was working on solving the crisis during the last election but, he wasn’t in the Uniparty and was reviled by the main stream media. Most people wouldn’t vote for anyone not in the Uniparty. These farmers, Idaho small business, and your families are going to pay the price for this.

  6. They need to Pipe the Twin Falls Canal as well as all the canals because they are losing 50 % of the water before it gets to the Farms . Doing this will keep that lost water back in the Wetlands for the ground water users .
    Plus it will deliver Presurized water so Farmers can stop having to Pump , think of that cost savings !!!!! This will Lower evryones power costs even home owners !!!
    We are doing this in Central Oregon ,,significant%20portion%20of%20this%20water

  7. I heard something about the Jervais Cobalt Mines needing water as a possible culprit for all this noise. Has anyone found anything substantial on the subject?

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