Keep praying for rain!! According to the Idaho Department of Water Resources, the Board of County Commissioners, through petitions from local governments and documented conditions, requested the Governor and Director submit an order declaring a drought emergency. Idaho Code 42-222A allows for “temporary changes to the use of water rights.” This prolonged shortage of water supply has affected our agriculture, residential water supply, water-fueled energy production, public health, wildlife, and of course, impacts wildfires. The National Integrated Drought Information System stated that the average of Bear Lake Counties from May to July 2021 was 1.4 inches. This year was the 9th driest June in 127 years!
Droughts take second to the world’s costliest weather phenomena after hurricanes. The National Weather Service stated that drought could be declared in as little as 15 days. About 80% of the state is experiencing conditions that qualify as drought. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, 30% of Idaho is may be triggered by human activities such as; logging and — farming or climate change.
There are four categories of Droughts: Meteorological drought – shortage of rainfall or precipitation; Agricultural drought – lack of moisture in the soil; Hydrological drought – low levels of water in various water sources; and Socioeconomic drought – shortage of drinking water. Droughts can lead to a severe decrease in the total harvest of crops, reducing the livestock volume, habitat damage for animals, migration of some animals from drought-stricken areas to places where there is enough water resulting in more negative encounters with humans, and wildfires are far more widespread.
Due to the severity of droughts, water restrictions can be mandated until a resolution is found. Montpelier’s watering hours are 6:00 a.m.-noon and 6:00 p.m. to Midnight. Paris City depends on where your house is located. North of Center Street on even days, South of Center street on odd days. Automatic watering system 10 p.m. -6 a.m.
In June of this year, Montpelier City Water was at its highest level. As a City we used 460,405,000 gals of water. We did better in July using only 88,904,900 gals.
The past few days have provided us with temporary relief. A soaking rain is especially beneficial in ending a drought; It enters the soil and increases the groundwater. Consistent wet rainfall over months is essential to putting an end to a drought.
There was a time when we lived in a remote Alaskan village where we had to be conscientious of our water supply. With three — 300-gallon holding tanks in our laundry room, we could visibly see how much water we had before we had to make another “water run.” We hauled our water; having water delivered was $400 a month! Some things I have taken from that experience were: reduce baths or take military showers, avoid running the water when brushing your teeth/washing your face or shaving, use cooking water when cooled to water plants, water the lawn in the evening (hard to do in the land of the midnight sun), and avoid flushing the toilet unnecessarily. In Alaska, there was a saying, “if it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down.”
Measures like conserving water, enhancing water efficiency, and identifying alternative water sources will assist with future water restrictions. If everyone does their part in conserving water, we will come out stronger as a community.