Idaho is Full and Out of Water
Idaho is full. I’ve often heard those words from old-timers. Others argue otherwise. They claim the country could easily double in size and be healthier economically. Maybe if another 300 million moved to the Great Lakes that would be the case, but I believe Idaho has reached a breaking point. The moving vans keep arriving but the water table isn’t growing. It’s shrinking.
That’s the takeaway from a summit conducted this week by Governor Brad Little. What shocked me was an engineer from Moscow who told the meeting the water that refreshed the Palouse has been dropping by six inches a year for 88 years.
We have even drier places. Drive to Rogerson from Twin Falls and you’ll get my drift. The area south of the Snake River is parched. Meanwhile, there’s an ongoing battle between groundwater users to the east and the farmers and ranchers to the west. The groundwater users are second in line when it comes to water rights. Many appear to be ignoring constitutional writ. The current truce is very tentative.
I see two solutions. One would be a moratorium on growth, however. If you’re not growing, then the economy could stagnate. What’s clear is the Treasure and Wood River Valley populations may not be sustainable.
The other option is pumping water to parched Idaho from the east. A few years ago I wrote about a pipeline from Lake Michigan. Some clown insisted it would never clear a mountain range. He doesn’t have an engineering degree. The people who do say it would be expensive, to begin with, but a series of pumps and high pressure could get the job done. The challenge is to get the states surrounding the lake to agree.
I’ve been told a closer option is to pump water from the Missouri River. Dry winters could complicate that idea.
No matter how you slice it, a day of reckoning approaches.