- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 6, 2015

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Idaho water managers say they’re negotiating to prevent mass water shutoffs even though a final deal could result in long-term farming changes for southern Idaho irrigators.

The Capital Press (https://bit.ly/1EQqU1l ) reports that groundwater irrigators - spanning from Jerome to Idaho Falls - have fallen short in providing enough water to two canal companies.

Twin Falls Canal Co. and American Falls Reservoir District No. 2 are owed nearly 89,000 acre-feet of water by junior well users because they own senior water rights. Senior water rights take priority in Idaho.

An acre foot is enough water to cover an acre one foot deep.

While the state’s Department of Water Resources is reviewing the issue, the two parties are conducting emergency meetings to find a solution. Both sides have agreed to exclude their attorneys from attending.

“This is the first time in 10 years that we’ve finally gotten the attorneys out of the way and the consultants out of the way, and we’re actually sitting down and saying, ‘What can we do?’ instead of going to court,” said Lynn Tominaga, executive director of the Idaho Ground Water Association.

One possible option would enforce pumping changes to reduce overall water use by irrigators even in plentiful water years.

Twin Falls Canal Co. Brent Olmstead says he’s optimistic they will find a solution, but added that similar discussions have failed before.

“There have got to be some pretty serious changes, or we’re going to continue to deplete the aquifer,” Olmstead said, speaking about the Lake Erie-sized underground water source that almost all canal companies and irrigators rely on. “There are some options out there, but they’re not easy. They cost money and require some changes.”

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