State water experts are venturing out on a limb to declare that Idaho's drought is over.
Based on water-supply projections for the summer, "it looks like we've got reasonable assurance of an adequate water supply. We're not in a drought situation," said drought committee chairman Wayne Haas.Dorrell Larsen, a University of Idaho extension agent, said farmers have been expecting a normal summer since November, when winter rolled in with full force.
"The drought went away in everybody's minds in November," Larsen said. "Everyone has that positive outlook."
However, Larsen said he hopes farmers and irrigation districts will practice conservation to save water for next year in case another dry spell strikes Idaho.
"We need to see thrifty water use and conservation," he said.
Because water supplies appear to be returning to normal, the drought committee disbanded for the rest of the year. Haas has reserved the right to recall the panel if conditions warrant.
Near-normal or above-normal snowpack, combined with heavy precipitation in March, should provide enough stream runoff to fill most key irrigation reservoirs in the state, officials said.
Anderson Ranch, Arrowrock and Lucky Peak reservoirs on the Boise River are expected to fill or come close to filling, assuming normal spring precipitation, said Joe Wens-man, river operations coordinator for the Bureau of Reclamation.
Both Cascade and Deadwood reservoirs on the Payette River will fill, Wensman said.
Magic Reservoir near Bellevue, Salmon Falls reservoir near Hager-man, Oakley Reservoir near Twin Falls, and American Falls Reservoir near Pocatello may not fill.
But irrigators drawing from those reservoirs should have adequate water supplies, said Alan Robertson, a state Water Resources official.
Although February's precipitation ran below normal in much of the state, a steady stream of storm fronts in the first half of March has replenished the shortfall, weather officials said.
Twin Falls, for example, had received 500 percent of normal precipitation from March 1 to 13, Boise had received 260 percent of normal and Sun Valley registered nearly 400 percent of normal.
Only Grangeville and Salmon listed readings of less than 100 percent of normal.
Deep snowpack in the desert regions of southwest Idaho indicate the Owyhee and Bruneau rivers - spectacular canyons popular with whitewater enthusiasts - will have near-normal floating seasons for the first time in three years, officials said.
Floaters already are negotiating the Owyhee, whose flow reached 10,000 cubic feet per second last week, said Jerry Hubbard, a Bureau of Land Management spokesman.