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Drilling for water

Gerald Schroeder

Gerald Schroeder

The end result of this thing is likely to be not much different than where we are now. But it’s a nearly-last chance for a bunch of water users in southern Idaho to stave off . . . shutdowns, in a lot of cases.

The issue is that there isn’t enough water in the southern Snake River system to satisfy all the demands, and so what’s spelled out in Idaho law – in the constitution – playing out: The owners of the oldest water rights are demanding priority delivery of their water. That’s the way the system works in Idaho, and in most western states. But it’s an unforgiving system, and a bunch of water users, mainly ground water users, are scrambling to find alternatives. They barely did a patch-n-scratch this year to fend off shutdowns; but what about next year, when reserves are down?

The hearing to try to find an answer started today, before Gerald Schroeder, formerly a state Supreme Court justice. It began with testimony from some of the senior right holders, including fish farmers, who asserted their rights. (The juniors will be pleading for mercy.) The next few steps in this drama (Schroeder will make a recommendation to the Idaho Department of Water Resources) will say a lot about what happens in rural southern Idaho for years to come.

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