Spring Rain Helps Idaho Water Outlook

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Cool temperatures and late-spring rain have significantly improved the summer water outlook for farmers and ranchers in southern Idaho, according to the latest federal data.

The U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service says May precipitation was 115 percent to 155 percent of average in statewide. The rains, combined with cool temperatures throughout the state also slowed the snow melt and reduced irrigation demand, leaving reservoirs nearly full.

The outlook is significantly better from April, when a lack of snow in the mountains had irrigators across south-central Idaho expecting to rely on above-normal flows from reservoirs to water early season crops, according to the Times-News.

"The El Nino weather pattern snapped the last week of March and storms since then have brought average or better precipitation" said Ron Abramovich, an NRCS water-supply specialist. "These weather changes resulted in an incredible turnaround; we now expect adequate water supplies for most of Idaho's numerous users."

The report shows snowpack in many of the lower elevations have melted out, but there is still plenty of snow in the higher elevations of central Idaho and the Upper Snake Basin. Snowpacks remain at about 95 percent of the June 1 average in the Salmon, Upper Snake and Bear River basins.

For the third straight year, spring rains and cooler temperatures combined to keep stream flows below average in May and reduce early season demand for irrigation water.

Several basins reported rainfall ranging from 140 percent to 170 percent of average, including the Salmon, Little Lost, Bear, Oakley, Salmon Falls, Bruneau and Owyhee. Pockets of near average amounts fell in the Teton, Mud Lake, and Camas basins.

In northern Idaho, snowpack is about 77 percent of average in Panhandle basins and own to 56 percent of average in the Spokane drainage. The extended rainy season helped top off Lake Coeur d'Alene and Priest lakes, which are near full, according to the report.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.


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