- Associated Press - Thursday, April 21, 2016

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (AP) - Eastern Idaho cities are facing the prospect of less water this summer if users and a group of Magic Valley irrigators cannot reach an agreement in the coming weeks.

The Idaho Department of Water Resources issued an order Tuesday that groundwater users who have not held their water rights as long as the Surface Water Coalition will have to mitigate 44,200 acre-feet of water unless a deal is reached by May 3, The Post Register reported (https://bit.ly/1pkIDKC ). One acre-foot is the volume of water sufficient to cover an acre of land to a depth of one foot.

Groundwater users who have approved a mitigation plan by that deadline are safe from curtailment above levels agreed upon with the coalition, which secured its water rights in 1989. Currently, members of a group called the Idaho Ground Water Appropriators have agreed to make cuts to satisfy the coalition.

Idaho Falls, Pocatello and other cities in the area have been trying to negotiate a compromise that would allow the coalition to have enough water while still enabling the cities to grow. Robert Harris, Idaho Falls’ water attorney, said the current plan is better fitted to farmers than cities with population changes.

“It’s easier to reduce crops,” Harris said. “It’s harder to reduce people.”

As the deadline for negotiations nears, lawyers on both sides said they will soon drop their protests and file an agreement.

If curtailment does affect cities, Mathew Weaver, deputy director of the Idaho Department of Water Resources, said it won’t affect residents’ ability to get drinking, cooking or bathing water. Instead it would limit or restrict residents from watering lawns and outdoor plants.

Idaho Falls Public Works Director Chris Fredericksen said the plan currently under negotiation would last only one year, but the cities are working to develop a longer-term deal.

“These types of issues are going to continue in the future, so we as water users and suppliers need to face these issues in order to continue to have the water that we need to grow,” he said.

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Information from: Post Register, https://www.postregister.com

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