A bad snow year coupled by Idaho’s irrigation needs has people concerned over the water level in the American Falls reservoir. Last year the water level dropped to 138,000 acre-feet and this year it’s projected to drop even lower than that.
“The reservoir is dropping continuously because of requirements by irrigators and stuff in the Magic Valley and irrigators here in Power County,” said Mayor Beitia of American Falls. “It’s an issue but first and foremost American Falls is an agriculture community and most of this reservoir belongs to the irrigators.”
The Bureau of Reclamation is hosting a public meeting tonight to explain how American Falls Reservoir operational decisions are made and to share projections of reservoir levels for the remainder of the 2013 recreation season.
“The last I heard it was somewhere between 100,000 and 60,000 acre feet, which is right on the edge of causing water quality issues with the DEQ and those types of things and everybody wants to avoid those situations,” continued Mayor Beitia.
Increased water monitoring begins when the reservoir reaches 100,000 acre feet. That’s only about 6 percent of its capacity. They came close to hitting that last year and we are forecasted to drop below that this year.
"We realize that people are concerned about the reservoir level for a variety of reasons," Mike Beus, Upper Snake Field Office hydrologist said. "And as we enter into a dry season, it's especially important that people have a basic understanding of how the reservoir is operated."
In 2007, Reclamation agreed to increase water quality monitoring and direct communications with DEQ when reservoir levels near 100,000 acre-feet or about 6 percent of its capacity. Last summer, the reservoir was held at 138,000 acre-feet which had a negative impact on recreation, but did not require increased water quality monitoring.
Reservoir levels this year are expected to be low mainly due to the lack of winter moisture and anticipated drawdowns to meet irrigation needs downstream. In addition to explaining reservoir operations, other topics at the meeting will include water quality, native fish, and the recreational impacts to the local economy.