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Idaho Water Supply Board: Record January, ‘gloomy’ drought outlook

TWIN FALLS (KIVI) – After a nearly “perfect” start to the season, Idaho Water Supply Committee officials say a record January and dry forecast aren’t ideal for the widespread drought in Idaho.

Nearly 50% of Idaho is in drought conditions, with the remaining half of the state approaching drought conditions, according to David Hoekema of the Idaho Department of Water Resources. Fall 2021 and early 2022 were “perfect” conditions from a water supply standpoint, but one of January’s driest 30-day streaks raises concerns.

“We’re getting to a point where we’re probably going to start recommending an extension of the drought in Idaho if we don’t see the necessary rainfall coming,” Hoekema said.

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By January 10, all over Idaho had over 100% precipitation after a wet fall, then December snowstorms allowed the snowpack to build up and “give us a head start.” according to NRCS hydrologist Mark Robertson. January was a “gloomy” month in Idaho for snowpack, with concerns over snowpack levels in the Boise Basin.

But despite a dry January, Robertson said the year is shaping up to be a La Nina year in 2009, where the state had a dry January and then picked up again in March. But at this stage, the statistics show that there is only a 30% chance of ending the season with a normal snowpack.

The forecast for the coming weeks does not paint a picture of current conditions turning around. Troy Lindquist of the National Weather Service said wet weather is expected to make its way to Idaho next week, but won’t bring much precipitation. Rainfall is expected to be normal to below normal for the foreseeable future, Lindquist said. The three-month outlook shows a slight trend toward above normal precipitation with a slight trend toward below normal temperatures in northern Idaho.

“(The models) show some improvement in drought conditions, but drought persists in the southern part of the state,” Lindquist said. “I’m not very optimistic at the moment, I felt a lot more optimistic a few weeks ago.”

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The predictions for the outlook for the reservoir system do not look much different. Jeremy Dalling of the Bureau of Reclamation said the likelihood of filling the reservoir systems is low, barring a wet spring in 2022. The Boise Basin-three reservoir system, if you add them all together, is full at 40%. System-wide levels are 20% lower than they would normally be at this time of year and 24% lower than last year.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s long-range forecast is again below normal next winter. Looking through the spring of 2023, Idaho could still have below normal numbers, which could contribute to the multi-year drought that many experts fear.