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Regulators expect record annual recharge for Idaho aquifer

May 4, 2018

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Water regulators are expecting a record amount of water to be pumped back into a southern Idaho aquifer this year, reaching more than double the annual recharge goal.

With high reservoirs and a slow-melting mountain snowpack, the Idaho Water Resource Board is expecting 530,000 acre-feet (653 million cubic meters) of water to seep back into the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer, the Capital Press reported Thursday.

The board’s goal is for 250,000 acre-feet (308 million cubic meters) of water to annually recharge the aquifer, which serves a large portion of the ranches and farms in the state. The amount this year surpasses last year’s record of 317,000 acre-feet (391 million cubic meters).

An acre-foot is the amount of irrigation water that would cover an acre to the depth of a foot.

The aquifer was in decline for decades from increased allocation and groundwater pumping, causing the state to implement the Comprehensive Aquifer Management Plan in 2009. The amount of available water had dropped by nearly 13 million acre-feet (16 billion cubic meters) since 1952.

“We had to do something; we couldn’t just watch the aquifer be depleted,” said Vince Alberdi, a member of the water board.

The state has been trying to better balance the amount of water going into the aquifer with the amount leaving. The state plans to increase the aquifer’s water by about 3 million acre-feet (4 billion cubic meters) by 2026.

“It’s going to take a combined effort to stabilize the aquifer and potentially build it back up,” said Wesley Hipke, recharge project manager for the board.

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Information from: Capital Press, http://www.capitalpress.com/washington