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REXBURG, Idaho -- Groundwater levels are dropping markedly
as drought persists in the Upper Snake River Valley, and applications
for deeper wells are rising.
``We've seen a greater change in the last year than we've seen in
the last 20,'' District 1 Watermaster Ron Carlson said. ``The problem
in many areas is unprecedented because many of these wells have been
in for 50 years or more.''
The water table has dropped 10 feet since 1995 in Bingham,
Bonneville, Jefferson and Madison counties, and the number of wells
running dry is up.
Nearly as many drilling permits were issued during the first half
of this year in eastern Idaho than during all of 2002.
Independent Drilling in Blackfoot bought a new drilling rig just
to keep up with the demand.
General Manager Jim Spalding said his crew is drilling wells an
average of 30 feet deeper and 90 percent have been replacement wells
where the water table has slipped below them.
``Each year, it starts a little lower, drops deeper and doesn't
recover as much,'' Spalding said.
Carlson blames the shift from flood irrigation that helped
recharge the aquifer to more efficient techniques over the past
Idaho Geological Survey hydrogeologist John Welhan said that
during the first half of the 20th century, dams and irrigation raised
the water table as much as 60 feet.
Some wells kept working despite previous droughts, he said, but
with the reduction in artificial recharge, a bad snow year can make a
major difference now.
Wells can also run dry in the spring and then resume supplying
water after the irrigation season begins and the canals and ditches
provide some recharge.
``If we're at all-time lows, we'd better get some snow,'' Water
Resources Department spokesman Dick Larsen said.
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