Teton Basin launches aquifer recharge pilot

Intermountain Farm & Ranch –

Farmers who divert from the Teton River Basin hope a new aquifer recharge pilot program will bolster late-season flows in the system and extend their irrigation season.

The Idaho Water Resource Board secured a $60,600 grant to fund the pilot in 2020 and 2021. The grant was offered by the Columbia Basin Water Transactions Program, which is funded by Bonneville Power Administration mitigation dollars associated with operating hydropower dams on the Columbia River.

In Idaho, most of the program’s funding is invested to benefit anadromous fish in the Upper Salmon, but a small portion is available to address issues in other fisheries. The pilot aims to recharge the declining Teton Basin Aquifer with at least 10,000 acre-feet of surface water during both years.

Grant funds will be used to pay participating canal companies to run water through their canals during the spring — when there’s ample excess water in the system — and spill it into adjacent gravel pits, allowing it to filter into the aquifer.

“Part of the emphasis is just to figure out if we can do managed recharge in the spring, if canals will not be frozen,” said Sarah Lien, water resources director with Friends of the Teton River. “The expectation is we’ll have the two-year period to work out some of the kinks and that it will be a viable strategy.”

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