While the summer heat is right around the corner, I have been very thankful for the cool, wet spring weather we have been able to enjoy this year. As I was driving back from Stanley this weekend in the rain, I was reminded about the beauty, power and importance of water in the west as the South Fork was raging through the canyon. I have said it before and I will say it again, water is our most precious natural resource. While earlier this spring there was much discussion about our reservoirs being low and it likely being a short irrigation season, the recent weather has helped improve our surface water levels immensely. Despite these turn of events, when we live in a high mountain desert it remains important that we have regular conversations about our water picture each year and over the long-term.
When talking about water supply in Meridian, it is important to understand that we have two different water sources, surface water which is delivered via the river and our irrigation systems, and groundwater that comes through deep wells from our aquifer. Both of these sources have their own supply and management challenges, and are crucial to our sustainability as a community and region. While we have two different sources, ultimately, we need water for crops, to fight fires, to supply industry and for our home uses. This is why it doesn’t matter the source of the water - we need to treat it all as a valuable resource.
In the west and Idaho, water is a complex issue and it varies from city to city in our region. To help shed some light on the situation in Meridian, we recently held a Town Hall to share Meridian’s water supply status with the community. During this event, community members learned about the complex and robust water supply network that exists in the Treasure Valley. You can watch a recording of the Town Hall HERE. At the Town Hall, there was a discussion on the process that occurs to model the impact of every new development in Meridian to ensure that the City has adequate water supplies to serve that development now and into the future. Additionally, Meridian continues to look for ways to strengthen its water supply portfolio even more by looking for new supply opportunities. One idea we are evaluating towards this effort is the once-in-a-generation potential new surface water supply project through the federally managed Anderson Ranch Dam raise. If this project is successfully constructed, it would allow surface water right holders to capture and store approximately 29,000 additional acre-feet of water each year.
Even without any new water supply projects, I can confidently say that the ground water supply Meridian uses to provide drinking water is healthy for the long-term future. Meridian has adequate supply, pumping capacity, and water rights to supply Meridian residents their municipal drinking water at the projected city buildout population. This makes us well positioned and committed to delivering quality drinking water to our residents.
While our groundwater supply in Meridian is robust and stable, our surface irrigation water picture is still evolving for this summer. While the recent rain and snow at higher elevations have helped, we experienced about 90 days with minimal moisture throughout this winter which is the critical time to build the mountain snowpack which fill our reservoirs. And, because of the challenging drought conditions of last summer, our reservoirs had very little carryover water further compounding the issue. However, as of today, our reservoirs are sitting at about 90% capacity.
In order to be prudent with this precious resource, it is important to exercise water-wise practices to help best utilize our surface water. Specifically, we should be following guidance from our water suppliers, whether the irrigation district, canal company, City or homeowners’ association. I encourage you to follow watering schedules and rotations that your subdivisions have implemented. If you aren’t familiar with this idea, reach out to your HOA and ask. If your HOA doesn’t have one, work with them to set one up. Inside your home, make sure you are taking simple steps to conserve such as putting in low-flow devices and not leaving the water running when not in use. If we all use a little less water and spread out when we use it, the more we can thrive this year and leave a legacy of smart use for future years and generations. You can also visit our website to learn about simple indoor and outdoor water conservation tips HERE.
As the City continues to monitor and plan for our long-term future water supply in Meridian, I would ask you to remember the small but important measures that you can take to be water-wise, especially with your outdoor watering use. As a skier, I am always excited to see snow in the mountains. As an Idahoan, I also know that snow is the lifeblood for our ability to live and thrive in a high dessert summer thanks to the intricate system of dams, irrigation and a healthy aquifer. Every drop counts, and as a Valley, together we can ensure that water is used wisely to meet all of our diverse community needs.