Water resource experts are keeping a close—and quite often nervous—watch on the forecast of this winter's remaining months.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service announced this week that the West's low precipitation this winter indicates a decreased water supply for the upcoming spring and summer, and yes, that includes much of Idaho. Areas of impact, according to the NRCS, include all of Washington, western Oregon, most of Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and nearly all of Idaho.
“We’re definitely trending toward a drought, especially in southern Idaho,” Jay Breidenbach, senior hydrologist for Boise National Weather Service, told Boise Weekly.
Accumulated mountain snow contributes to the region's stream flow and water supply, but the NRCS said January snowfalls fell short of expectations.
And though snowboarders and skiers might appreciate light, fluffy snow at the region's resorts, it’s not very deep and the deeper snow pack "is an indicator of how much water will be in the streams,” according to Breidenbach. The hydrologist explained that dense, packed snow highly contributes to water supply when the warmer summer months begin melting it. But the snow pack in Idaho this winter has been scarce.
And while recreationists may be disappointed in low levels of the Boise River this summer, low stream flows are “most important for the agricultural industry,” said Breidenbach.
Breidenbach added that if the remaining two winter months meet average precipitation levels, the West could likely recover.
"This is not a dire issue in Idaho just yet," Breidenbach said.