U.S. Water News Online
TWIN FALLS, Idaho -- Seven groundwater pumping districts
are trying to cut a deal with Magic Valley canal companies that claim
their senior water rights mean users have to cut back their
The districts, under the umbrella of the Idaho Groundwater
Appropriators Inc., offered up to 65,000 acre feet of water for this
coming growing season to the canal companies.
They're making the offer just as banks have put some operating
loans for groundwater users on hold, officials say. Lenders are wary
over the impasse, which could shut down thousands of water users and
hurt the region's economy.
"Because of the water delivery call and the uncertainty of the
water supply, the banks have been showing some uncertainty," said
Lynn Tominaga, a spokesman for the Groundwater Appropriators.
In mid-January, seven Magic Valley canal companies banded together
in a "water call," asking the director of the Idaho Department of
Water Resources to restore their water rights.
Five years of drought, decades of pumping and changing irrigation
practices along the 10,000-square-mile Eastern Snake River Plain
Aquifer have contributed to water shortages.
In Idaho, as throughout the West, those who got their water right
last are the first to be shut down when there are shortages.
Tominaga says groundwater users, who got their water rights last,
realize they bear some responsibility for restoring water. The 65,000
acre feet they're offering comes from 850,000 acres under groundwater
irrigation from Blackfoot to Buhl, Tominaga said.
"For groundwater users, that's enough water to irrigate 30,000
acres," he said.
He said the offer could buy water users some time. IDWR Director
Karl Dreher is now required by law to at least consider the users'
explanation for how much water they can give up.
Still, it's unclear how canal companies will react.
They've asked in the past for as much as 450,000 acre feet of
water, said Sen. Chuck Coiner, R-Twin Falls, who formerly negotiated
for the canal companies.
And the current attorney for the surface users, John Simpson, said
the pumpers' numbers don't make sense to him.
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