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Water Management in Municipalities

We’ve talked about water a lot this summer, but hang in there! Sustainable Idaho takes a shift away from farmers this year and into the 20% – municipalities. David Hoekema from the Department of Water Resources talks with Jessa about how the state of Idaho is managing climate change, irrigation, and growing cities.

Though only accounting for about 20% of Idaho’s water usage, municipalities are a key part of the state’s water system. Now that environmental change and conservation are on the radar and cities all around Idaho continue to grow, it’s more important to understand the whole water system. Though we are going through a desertification process, Idaho currently has enough water to meet all its needs. However, we in the cities need to learn how contribute to the system. Is it better to xeroscape, or to let your grass run a little brown during the summer? We have to find ways to conserve water without depleting our groundwater resources. David Hoekema gives some insights in how Idaho’s Department of Water resources considers these implications and how we can contribute to Idaho’s water system. Finally, David explains the projects of climate change and how that will potentially change Idaho’s water system. For example, the picture of this week’s episode is below Milner’s Dam in late summer, when there is “zero flow,” and you can walk across the Snake River with dry shoes. This is a huge change in the water system since the early 1900s when the dam was originally built, and David suspects extreme changes like this are in our future.

Further resources! 

Portneuf Resource Council’s new website:

The Idaho Department of Water Resources website:

National Integrated Drought Information System’s page on Idaho:

You can see here that while Idaho is dry, we’re not technically in a drought. For now, we have water but are definitely desertifying, as David mentioned.

Idaho Water Facts from the IDWR:

A link to the 2023 Govorner’s Water Summit:

David Hoekema presented at this summit, and his presentation begins ~12 minutes.

Though our episode time was too short to include it there, David talked to me at length about the Swan Falls Controversy. This was a 1984 controversy between farmers and the State of Idaho over water rights in the Snake River Basin, as the State of Idaho was preparing to use some of the water for hydropower.

“Understanding the 1984 Swan Falls Controversy”:

“Framework Reaffirming the Swan Falls Settlement,” from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission archives:

Key quote: “At the heart of that Settlement was the recognition that Idaho’s water resources are the life-blood of Idaho’s agricultural, industrial, municipal, recreational, and environmental values and that the effective management of those resources benefits all of Idaho’s citizenry.”

Overview of the Swan Falls Controversy from IDWR: /uploads/sites/2/districts/WD02-20120227-Overview-of-Swan-Falls-Settlement.pdf

Jessa is in her final year of her undergraduate career, pursuing three majors: English with Creative Writing, History, and Global Studies with an emphasis in French Language and Literature. She is a published author through ISU's Black Rock & Sage literary magazine and hopes to join the Sustainability Club at ISU. Her sustainability journey began with her year abroad when she interned for Letters to the Earth, an organization dedicated to environmental sustainability. She hopes to work for Amnesty International until she can write books in the mountains full time.