Idaho Drought to Continue…. Could Harvesting Rain Help?
by Doug Pushard
snowpack levels currently being recorded through the end of January
2005 across North Central Idaho and western Montana could forecast
water shortages later again this summer.
Information from the Missoula office of the National Weather
Service show snow that has fallen from October through the
last week in January is ranging between 52 and 71 percent of normal.
Many of the snowpack monitoring sites operated by the Natural
Resource Conservation Service are setting new record low values
for the end of January.
hydrologists say the state's 2005 outlook for water is 'deteriorating.'
for January 6- February 3, 2005
Nova, general manager of Schweitzer Mountain Resort above Sandpoint
in northern Idaho, said Wednesday that this winter is already
one of the worst on record. Ron, the service's water-supply specialist,
says the likelihood is growing that the February through April
period will be warmer than average, making chances of a seventh
year of drought greater in a state where lack of moisture has
intensified the water drought situation.
snowpack trends continue to remain the same or decline further,
according to a NWS report, streamflows will be at very low flows
in the summer of 2005. Low streamflows could lead to some possible
water shortages across western Montana and North Central Idaho.
rain water harvesting help alleviate some of the short term effects
of less snowpack? Since one inch of rain falling on a one square
foot of surface equaling .623 gallons of water, an average 1,500
square foot area could collect up to 934 gallons per inch of rain.
With average rainfalls in Idaho of 12 20 inches and averages
of 10 16 inches in Montana that is nearly 10,000 gallons
of water per average-sized house that is harvestable. Plus, a
great advantage of rain water harvesting is that the water can
be captured all year round for FREE and then used later (i.e.
in the summer months when it is drier).
area utilities and communities have set up programs to educate
locals in using this old fashion approach to dealing with the
ongoing drought. A few of these include:
Harvesting for Montana
A primer published by Montana State University.
Water Conservation Handbook A comprehensive water conservation
manual with a chapter on rainwater harvesting published by Pullman-Moscow
Water Resource Committee.
Conservation Brochure - A short brochure discussing the need
to conserve water and includes a photo of a local rain barrel
system published by City of Moscow, Idaho.
year the U.S. Geological Survey reported that the Colorado River,
which supplies water to seven U.S. states and Mexico, may be in
its worst drought in 500 years (http://water.usgs.gov/pubs/fs/2004/3062/).
The federal Drought Monitor (http://www.drought.unl.edu/risk/us/usimpacts.htm)
currently shows that every Western state remains in drought at
varying levels of severity. At the same time, record population
growth continues Census Bureau figures revealed that arid
Western states like Nevada and Arizona lead the nation in population
growth, increasing 66 percent and 40 percent, respectively, between
1990 and 2000. Over the same period, the states of Washington,
Oregon, Idaho, Utah, California, New Mexico and Texas experienced
harvesting rainwater will not solve the growth or drought problem,
it seems it could help lessen its impact.